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THE PRICE 
OF YOUTH 



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THE PRICE 
OF YOUTH 



By 
MARGERY WILLIAMS 



V 

flew Votft 
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO.. Ln> 
All rightt reserved 



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CoprmiGHT, I9Q4, 
By the MACMILLAN COMPANY. 

Set up, electrotyped. and published March, 1904. 



TO 

THE DEAR FOLK 

UP AT THE 

WOODS 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 



THE breeze had dropped, and the river, under 
the blaze of afternoon sunlight, stretched 
rippleless from shore to shore. The shining water 
seemed to hold an intenser blue than the sky. It 
was of a burnished brightness, that almost hurt the 
eyes. By contrast, the opposite shore, with its belt 
of pine trees, looked dark and sombre, shades of 
green deepening to black. The bank rose in one 
part steeply to a bluff, and the exposed clay took 
tjie light in tones of raw gold and umber. Very 
far to the left, where the river widened to the inlet, 
were spaces of salt marsh, bronze and purple, and 
a low trestle bridge spanned the water. A train 
was crawling across it now, like a long black cater- 
pillar, the smoke from the engine hanging drifted 
against the grey-blue sky. 
The afternoon was quiet, with the expectant hush 



2 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

of early summer, before the myriad orchestra of 
insect life has reached its zenith. Up in the air a 
fish-hawk hung circling with mournful grating cries; 
one could see the grey underside of its wings catch 
the light as it sailed lazily. The bird, and the tiny 
crawling train on the railway bridge, seemed the 
only living things in a brooding silence. 

The girl who was stretched face downward on 
the pine-needles watched the sky and the river and 
the floating fish-hawk in a large indolence bom of 
the afternoon. The little clearing where she lay, at 
the edge of the bank, was shut in by pines, their 
trunks growing straight and high like columns. The 
air was drowsy with the scent of them, mingled 
with the fresher sea-smell from the open river, and 
the ground was covered with their brown needles 
like a glistening carpet. High overhead the branches 
creaked and crooned, twigs rustling softly in the 
ceaseless chant of the woods. 

Her cheek rested on the curve of her arm, and 
her face was so close to the ground that she could 
feel the warmth from the sun-steeped needles. A 
curious woven murmur seemed to come from the 
earth, the sound of unseen life stirring. Sometimes 
it took definite rhythm ; it was like an army tramping. 
Sometimes it sounded like tiny voices; sometimes 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 3 

it was the wide whisper of grass spaces stirred by 
wind; sometimes it was like the sea. Always it was 
elusive, composite, restless. It was as if the earth- 
surface were a delicate telephone that caught all the 
sounds of the world's movement and held them, soft- 
ened and minimised to one fixed note, a low vibrant un- 
dertone, the major key of nature. 

Listening half consciously, the girl amused herself, 
as she had done since childhood, by trying to fancy 
into this murmur a definite significance. At times 
it seemed*clear, persistent, as though the next moment 
would give her the«keynote that should interpret its 
meaning, simplify the whole into a message she could 
understand. Often she seemed quite near to it, then 
suddenly it was lost; the tenour would shrink and 
change. It was always leading her on, to bafHe her 
in the end by some unexpected turn, some change 
of cadence. It was like those little trodden footpaths 
in the wood that were always leading to somewhere 
definite, but never reached there, that were full of 
beckoning twists and sudden vistas; Indian paths, 
the children called them. No one knew who had 
first made them, or who kept them trodden. The 
old faint trail showed through just the same, spring 
after spring. 

To-day, shutting her eyes, she fancied in the sound 



4 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

the rustle of countless things growing; tiny creeping 
prisoners forcing their bonds; a thousand midget 
earth-folk insurgent. She could hear them pushing, 
stretching, moving cramped limbs. All the brown earth 
was alive, on tiptoe ; the pageant march of summer had 
b^^n. 

The murmur, restless in itself, wrought in her a. 
sense of restfulness, almost stupor. The sun on her 
closed eyelids was definitely warm; she seemed to be 
looking into a deep rose-coloured haze. She lay with- 
out moving, every muscle relaxed, conscious only of 
the intimate nearness of the earth, its stir and whisper, 
the crooning of the pines overhead, the soft freshness of 
the sea air on her forehead. 

All at once the harmony was broken and blurred; 
the murmur shrank and ceased. Someone was call- 
ing. 

She hitched herself along to the edge of the bank 
and peered over. The ground sloped away steeply 
to a flat strip of shingle and coarse grass, which met 
the water's edge further out in a line of tiny lapping 
waves. Some ragged brown nets, with cork floats 
attached to them here and there, were spread out to 
dry on the ground, and a little square bath-house built 
of weather-beaten planks, in shape and size like 
a decrepit sentry-box, stood a little back from the 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 5 

shore, under the lee of the bank on which she was 
lying. Strange groping sounds issued from this fast- 
ness, suggestive of a kitten trying to turn round in a 
covered basket. A voice was raised in plaintive 
protest. 

"Fan, youVe got one of my garters !" 

"I haven't." 

"You must have. I hung it on a nail, and ifs 
goner 

"Look again." 

"I did look." There was a silence, broken by further 
bumps and scuffles, and then the girl on the bank said 
equably — 

"I guess Willie Pearce took it He walked along 
here while we were in bathing." 

There was a smothered giggle from the sentry-box. 
A moment later the door opened outwards and a girl 
emerged. She was pretty after a childish immature 
fashion, with clear pink-and-white skin — pinker 
now than usual from the exercise of rubbing — ^blue 
eyes and straw-coloured hair, damp still from the 
salt water and twisted low on her round neck. She 
wore a faded blue gingham dress that had been made 
last year and fitted her gfrowing figure now too tightly ; 
It gaped above the waistband as she stooped. She 
took up her shoes and stockings from the floor, and 



6 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

carrying them in her hand, picked her way carefully, 
with bare white feet, across the sand to a log of wood, 
where she sat down to put them on. 

"I know I hung it on a nail," she insisted again. 

"It's in Willie's pocket, sure. You'd better ask 
him for it. I don't really call it nice, Phemy, for you 
to give your garter as a keepsake to a young man. 
You know as well as I do that a girl of your age can't 
be too careful in these little matters. Modesty and re- 
finement should be above all else a young girl's most 
treasured qualities. In saying this, my dear Euphemia, 
I am prompted solely by consideration for your wel- 
fare. Once the delicate bloom is rubbed from the 
surface of the lily " - :• • » . 

She had pitched her voice in the key of a certain 
pious and respected matron, well-known in the village, 
and Phemy, pulling on an obstinate stocking over her 
damp foot, giggled appreciatively. Fan, oi^ .thfc bank 
above her, continued without a smile. 

"There is nothing marks a lady so much as her be- 
haviour in little matters of this sort. I'm not joking, 
Phemy. I really don't call it nice of you. Now, just 
supposing— oh, my Lord !" 

In shifting her position she had put her hand inad- 
vertently upon a spiky fragment of pine-cone. She sat 
upright, shaking back her damp brown hair, and 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 7 

pulling it round over her shotilder began to braid 
it 

"You needn't spend so much time putting on your 
stockings Phemy. Willie Pearce won't come back this 
way." 

"I don't care if he does!" 

Phemy laced her boots— cheap pointed ones with 
patent leather tips — and walking back to the bath-house, 
picked up the wet bathing suits and proceeded to wring 
them out. She made them into two btmdles, each 
knotted in a towel, and scrambling up the bank, sat 
down by her companion's side. 

"Is your hair dry? Mine's awful sticky yet." She 
put up a hand to feel it. "I wish't I hadn't got my 
head wet, now. It takes such a time dryin'. Yours is 
wetter'n mine, isn't it? It's so heavy." She patted her 
own yellow locks complacently. 

"I want to go down to Hunt's landing to-night" 

"Who're you going to meet at Hunt's?" 

"No one, I guess. I'm just going down with the 
girls." 

'Want my lace scarf to wear?" 

"I don't care. Don't you want it ?" 
» "You can have it." 

Phemy pulled up a teaberry stem and chewed it, look- 
ing out across the river. 



8 THE PRICE OE YOUTH 

''Did you see Bert Havens in the village this after- 
noon?" she said after a moment 

"Where?" 

"Outside Curzon's. He waved at us. He's gettin' 
awful nervy." 

"Guess he waved at you, Phemy." 

Phemy shot a quick glance at her, the teaberry 
gripped between her teeth. For the second her blue 
eyes looked hard and furtive. 

"I guess he thinks he's smart 'cause he wears a 
four-dollar Panama!" she said with a short laugh. 
"My, it's hot ! I wish we could get home without havin' 
to walk all the way." 

Fan had finished her plait, and tossed it back over 
her shoulder. She drew her knees up, and resting 
her head on her folded arms, seemed to be steeped in 
the idleness of the hour. The sunlight slanting through 
the pine boughs made amber lights and shades in her 
hair; her shoulders showed firm straight outlines 
under the cotton shirt, damp from the dripping of 
salt water. Her hands, clasping her knees, were 
strong and tanned, with finely moulded wrists and 
long, capable fingers; they were beautiful with the 
instinctive beauty of the hand which is trained to 
use. 

Phemy gave some dissatisfied touches to her hair, 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 9 

which clung together in little straight tails. She said 
at last, with a mouth full of hair-pins: "You go to 
sleep anywhere, just like a cat, don't you ?" 

Fan turned her head sidewise, without lifting it. 

"Swimming always makes me sleepy," she said. "I 
should like to stay here now and sleep for a thousand 
years." 

"You'd wake up and find everyone dead," said 
Phemy, with irritating practicality. 

"I wonder if I'd be sorry." 

"What a way you talk ! It must be near supper-time. 
Am't you hungry ?" 

"I'm sleepy. Let's wait here till someone comes 
along to give us a lift." 

"There won't be anyone." 

"There might be." 

The breeze stirred again, travelling like a shadow 
across the mirror-like surface of the water. It bore 
to them a faint distant humming, and Phemy said after 
a minute : 

"How plain you can hear the wires on the Oceans- 
house road. Listen. It soimds like people talking." 

"It's the wires talking," said her companion. "They 
tell everything that happens, all over the world — ^just 
what everyone is doing. Didn't you know that ?" She 
shook back the hair from her forehead, and fixed her 



10 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

eyes on the other girFs face ; grey uncomfortable eyes, 
with curious hazel lights behind them. "Whatever 
anyone says or does, all the little mean things they 
think nobody knows about but themselves. They 
watch and listen, and then tell on them. They told 
how much Deacon Allan put in the collection last Sun- 
day. You can hear it all if you put your ear to the 
pole. Didn't you ever try?" 

Phemy sniflfed derisively. 

"You try it. How do you suppose people get to 
know things the way they do? How do you suppose 
old Jakey Rose learns everything that goes on in the 
village? He comes out here at night and he puts his 
ear to the telegraph-pole and sucks it all in. Jakey'U 
turn into a telegraph-pole himself one of these days. 
He grows longer and thinner every day — ^you watch 
him — and his voice gets sharper and buzzier. Theyll 
plant him somewhere along the road and he'll buzz all 
day long— about other people's business. He'd rather 
do that than go to heaven any day, Jakey would.*' 

"Guess he won't get into heaven if he's got to show 
his ticket!" 

"That wouldn't worry Jakey! He'll find some way 
of doing St. Peter. He'll ^et around him with incan- 
tations. Jakey can do anyone that ever lived, if you 
give him time." 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH ii 

"Mrs, Goble says he can put spells on things," said 
Phemy, still chewing her teaberry stem. She said it 
with an indifferent air of advancing sc»neone else's 
opinion. 

"Of course he can." 

"I don't believe it r 

"He put a hoodoo on Mrs. Coble's lima beans and 
they all grew the wrong way. You ask her T 

"Huhr 

"Maybe you don't believe in spells?" said Fan. 

"Of course I don't. It's all nonsense." 

"You don't believe in spirits, but you'd be dead 
scared to go by the Quaker burying-grotmd at night, 
ever since Dave Allan saw the ghost there." 

"He didn't see it." 

"All right," said Fan irritatingly. "He didn't." 

She smoothed her skirt across her knees, staring at 
the opposite shore. "There are spirits all around one," 
she continued gravely after a moment. "Particularly 
in pine woods. There is something peculiar in the 
nature of pine trees that attracts them, the same way 
that steel attracts lightning. Perhaps you didn't know 
that?" Phemy giggled uncomfortably. "It's perfectly 
true. You can read about it in any good book on 
psychic phenomena. The spirits are there all the time, 
and under certain conditions they can be materialised. 



12 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

Anyone can do it, who has the will power and knows 
how to use it." 

"Yes, they can!" 

"They can. I could — ^you could, if you tried hard 
enough." Phemy looked at her with half-convinced 
suspicion, and she added immediately : "I bet you'd be 
scared to try !" 

"No I wouldn't, 'cause I don't believe in it." 

"Then try." 

"I don't want to." 

"You're scared." 

"I'm not, either ! What's the good of doing things 
you know can't happen ?" 

"All right. If you know so very much better than I 
do, and the people who write the books '* 

"What do you have to do?" 

"Just concentrate your will power." Fan selected 
two straight twigs and placed them crosswise on the 
ground. "Move up nearer — that's right. Now you 
put your two hands on, so, and I'll put mine on, and we 
must both think hard. Just think of the spirit you 
want to materialise and nothing else. Concentrate 
your whole mind on it. Are you ready?" 

Phemy hesitated a moment. 

"What's it going to look like ?" she bargained. 

^*That I can't say. In broad daylight it will 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 13 

probably be obliged to take a material form. It 
depends very much upon circumstances. It might 
appear in its own shape, or it might take the outward 
form of a dog, or a black pig, or a bird, or even a 
human being." 

"Then how are you going to know it?" 

"You'll know it," said Fan darkly, "when you see 
it. Now you mustn't speak, and you must think hard. 
It isn't always easy to do without a lot of practice. 
Just think hard!" 

They sat there, cross-legged, on the brown pine- 
needles, facing each other through several minutes of 
intent silence. Fan, her slim fingers stretched tip to 
tip against Phemy's squarer ones, stared up seriously 
at the blue sky between the pine branches. Phemy, 
half giggling, half defiant, stole occasional furtive 
glances to right and left. She was never sure how 
much of Fan's nonsense was true. A strand of hair 
got arcoss her eyes, and she moved her head to shake 
it away. 

"You am't thinking hard enough," said Fan mildly. 

"I am so!" 

There was a long silence, while the branches rustled 
and the sunlight sifted down on the two bare heads, 
one smooth and yellow and orderly, the other brown 
and roughened. Fan, cross-legged, gazed like a 



14 THE PRICE. OF YOUTH 

young priestess out of grave mystic eyes. She 
watched a dragonfly rise suddenly from the river- 
bank and wheel before her, a jewelled flash in the 
air. 

All at once there came a steady, leisured crunch on 
the dry needles. Phemy turned, scattering the sticks 
with a stifled squeak, like that of a terrorised rabbit. 
The spell had begun to work I 



II 



THE spirit whom Phemy had so inadvertently 
materialised was to all appearances harmless 
enough. It took no more disconcerting form than 
that of a young man in a grey knickerbocker suit. He 
had dark reddish hair, that straggled across his fore- 
head, and a boyish discontented face, marred at pres- 
ent by the initial stages of sunburn. He looked hot 
and dust-grimed and slightly annoyed. He had a 
bicycle with him, which he left against a tree while he 
advanced towards them. 

"Do you happen to know," he began, "whether any 
of these roads around here lead to anywhere?" 

Phemy was still smitten speechless by this triumph 
of witchcraft. Nevertheless her hand rose instinctively 
to her damp, pretty hair, while she surveyed the 
stranger sidewise. Fan had not moved. She sat facing 
him equably across the scattered sticks. 

"Some of them do," she said. 

"Oh. Yes. I'm so glad to know. I began to be 
IS 



i6 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

afraid they didn't. I suppose there's no— cr— distin- 
guishing mark to tell which ones?" 

"Where do you want to go?" 

"It depends on which road is the best. I had some 
idea of getting to Matehocken, but it seems to be a 
quaint and fruitless ambition. Quite likely there isn't 
such a place." 

"You've been coming away from it," said Fan. 

He glanced at her with what seemed a trick of re- 
flective serious impersonal regard, much as he might 
have looked at a tree or a stone in which he expected 
to discover meaning. "Oh, most probably. It's the 
sort of thing one does, down here !" 

He found a clear space on the pine-needles and 
sat down, with his back against a tree-trunk. He 
put his cap on the ground beside him, and taking 
out a handkerchief, began to wipe the dust and 
perspiration from his forehead. Phemy, covertly 
observant, noticed that his hair was thick, and curled 
a little where it met the edge of his wilted collar. 
She thought critically that if he were clean and 
tidy he might be rather better looking, and she 
pulled her gingham frock a little further over her 
ankles. 

"I feel pretty dirty," he said presently. He spoke 
in a low-pitched voice, rather with the effect of find- 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 17 

ing words a nuisance, looking about him restlessly 
all the while at the trees, the sky, the river. "I 
started from Philadelphia at half-past six this morn- 
ing, and I've been riding ever since— except what 
I've had to walk. I was all right till I got down 
here, and then I began to get balled up over the 
roads. It seems to me a delightful conceit to call 
them roads at all. They're bogs — ^jungles — sand- 
heaps I I've pushed that blessed bicycle something 
like fourteen miles, and the sand was^over my ankles 
every step of the way. I asked a pedlar or some- 
thing back there" — ^he indicated the vast sea of scrub- 
pine behind him — "and he told me this joad would 
take me to Matehocken, Here's where it brought me 
out." 

Phemy spoke for the first time, unwilling that Fan 
should claim the entire conversation. 

"Am't you awful tired?" 

He turned to glance at her politely. 

"Tired? Not at all! It's been delightful. I can im- 
agine no more exhilarating way of spending a sirni- 
mer vacation than in pushing a bicycle through Jersey 
pine forests — with your shoes full of sand. If I should 
meet that pedlar ten years hence, when I get rested, 
I'm going to assassinate him, by way of a discourage- 
ment to local himiour." 
c 



i8 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"Some of the roads here are pretty good for riding," 
said Fan. 

"That depends upon whether your wheel happens to 
be fitted with toboggan runners or a snow-plough. 
Mine has ordinary tires. I found them rather a draw- 
back." 

He seemed inclined to let the matter of direction 
drop, for the present, and leant back, his head resting 
idly against the tree behind him, one knee drawn up 
and his hands locked round it. Evidently he was in 
no immediate hurry to find Matehocken. He made 
no apology for his continued intrusion, possibly as- 
suming tha^the woods belonged to him as much as 
to them. Phemy fell to chewing teaberry again. Fan 
eyed him curiously, with the interest of dislike. He 
had well-shaped hands, rather too slim for a man's, 
she thought; a straight clean-cut mouth and square 
chin. A slight disagreeableness of expression, that 
might have been habitual or merely the accidental re- 
sult of the sun shining directly on his half-closed 
eyes, made his face almost ugly. His clothes had 
a city cut, but they were well worn, approaching 
shabbiness. Her gaze travelled by natural sequence 
to his cap, lying on the ground, and noticed a 
tiny dark red enamel pennant set in the front 
of it. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 19 

He opened queer hazel eyes suddenly, before she had 
finished her scrutiny, and shot at her a glance that was 
half whimsical, half inquiring, and that changed the 
expression of his face on the instant. The look seemed 
to detect her in an unwarranted interest, and she re- 
sented it. She turned her head away and studied the 
pine trees. 

"Do you care if I smoke?" said the stranger. 

Phemy checked a giggle, catching Fan's eye upon 
her. 

"Not in the least," said Fan. 

He felt through his pockets and extracted a short 
briar pipe and a box of matches. He lit the pipe, and 
the blue smoke curled up round his head. 

"It seems to me so unique," he said after a minute, 
"to come down to Jersey and get lost this way. I 
had no idea I could do it. It's artistic. Anyone 
could get lost in Hoboken or Central Africa, but to 
get lost in Jersey argues a certain originality. . . . 
Fm not sure one can't call it genius. It's a great stunt. 
Years after I shall probably look back and 
wonder how I did it. Do you know Hoboken at 
aU?" 

"No." 

"Neither do I." He said it as though the fact ar- 
gued a cordial link between them. "I have an aunt 



20 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

who lives there. I believe she likes it. I have a dim 
recollection of going to stay there once when I was 
very little." 

She had looked at him sharply, half suspiciotis that 
he was making fun of her, but his face, through the 
wreathed tobacco smoke, was wholly serious. "It's 
all houses, you know, and I hate houses. Don't you? 
They're so depressing." 

"Am't there any houses in Philadelphia?" Fan in- 
quired cuttingly. 

"Yes, I believe so. But one doesn't notice them in 
the same way. I have a conviction, probably a survival 
from childhood, that every house in Hoboken conceals 
an aunt. That's why I preserve a dislike for the place 
without ever going near it." 

"Are they all youf aunts?" 

"Heaven forbid! No, but the idea of it. . . . 
Imagine the nightmare of a place that was peopled 
by aunts. Streets upon streets of houses, and knowing 
that if you opened all the front doors you'd find some- 
body's aunt behind each one of them. Of course I 
may be wrong. It's just a feeling." 

He picked up a twig and poked down the tobacco 
in his pipebowl. 

"Don't you like relations?" said Fan. 

He faced her frankly. "Do you?" 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 21 

"I've never bothered much about them." 

"I've had to, unfortunately. It's a subject that 
has necessarily interested me. I adtnit it's a morbid 
tendency, but I don't know that it's any worse than 
persistently dwelling upon one's health, or one's 
finances, or one's spiritual welfare. This is a nice 
place!" 

He looked round him approvingly at the brown shin- 
ing needles, the genista that bloomed in yellow patches 
between the trees, the straight grey trunks with the 
gleam of jewelled river showing between. 

"I suppose you live here?" 

"Not very far." 

"Nice river r 

"I'm glad there's nothing the matter with the river," 
said Fan drily. 

Again she met the quick, half-quizzical glance. 

"Oh, I should hope not ! I mean it's — rather perfect, 
isn't it ? I suppose you come here often ?" 

"Yes," said Fan. "I come here in the early morn- 
ing and crab. Soft-shelled crabs, you know." She 
carefully avoided Phemy's round-eyed gaze. "I sell 
them to the cjty people who come down, at fifty cents 
a dozen. You see my father's out of work, and there 
are eleven children younger than I am. Do you like 
soft-shelled crabs?" 



22 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"I'm afraid I don't— not passionately. They are 
too much like spiders. I'm so sorry !" 

"So am I. Do you mean about the crabs or the 
children?" 

"Oh, both," he answered, with vague sympathy. 
"Both. Eleven's rather a lot. . . . Don't they get 
under your feet?" 

"They get ever)rwhere. We were always rather an 
improvident family," she murmured, looking on the 
pine-needles. 

"I see. And do you find that crab-catching pays 
you?" 

"In the summer it does. You see, I supply a great 
many of the hotels and private cottages. I have stand- 
ing orders with them. I can make as much as seven 
dollars a week through the season. Do you feel bad, 
dear?" 

Phemy was concealing strange noises behind a 
handkerchief. Fan turned grave eyes upon the 
stranger. 

"She gets taken like that scwnetimes," she ex- 
plained. "It doesn't really hurt her. It's ever since 
she had the measles, three years ago. It left her 
with a sensitive chest. I have some nice crabs 
down there in the fishbox now," she pursued hope- 
fuUy. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 23 

"Fm afraid I couldn't carry them," said the young 
man r^retfully. 

"They'd go in your pockets! I get oysters, too, 
sometimes, but they're harder to catch." 

"More agile, I suppose?" 

She nodded. He relapsed into a contemplative si* 
lence — ^the physical content of the wearied pilgrim — 
which lasted until he rose, a few moments later, knock- 
ing his pipe out against the tree-trunk and replac* 
ing it in his pocket while he gazed reluctantly about 
him. 

"'And when the sun was low in the west, the Dong arose 
and said: 
"What little sense I once possessed is quite gone out of 
my head r"' 

"What's that?" asked Fan. 

His eyes came back to her swiftly. 

"Matthew Arnold, I believe. It's a delightful poem. 

I must lend " He broke off, abstractedly picking 

a burr from his stocking. 

"I think you said you knew where Matehocken 
was?" 

"Oh, yes. Shall I show you your way ?" she added. 

"If it isn't troubling you." 

Fan stood up, and shook the clinging pine-needles 
from her skirt. There was a suggestion of strength 



24 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

about her when she moved, a certain outdoor poise and 
freedom. She pushed back the hair from her fore- 
head, eyeing him seriously. 

"I suppose you want the best road?" 

"I should prefer it — if there is one." 

"Oh, yes." 

He fetched his bicycle, and followed her a few 
paces to where the trees began to clear, and a 
deep sandy cart track wound down toward the river 
shore. 

"You see the road?" she said. "Well, you follow 
it right down — ^you'll have to walk the first little bit, 
but it isn't far — and it'll bring you out by a signpost 
that says. To the Upper Bridge/ You follow that 
and when you've crossed the bridge keep straight on 
till you come to Meakins' — Qiicken Joe Meakins, 
not the other Meakins; you mustn't get them mixed. 
It's a house with a red barn. Chicken Joe Meakins. 
You can't mistake it. And then you turn off along 
what they call the river road and keep right on till 
you come to the signpost. It's quite simple." 

"It sounds $0. Thanks, immensely. You're a 
Samaritan." 

He paused, leaning across the handlebars of his 
bicycle. 

"My name's King," he said then, rather as though 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 25 

he deprecated the fact. "I don't know whether I may 
know yours ?" 

"Why, certainly." She hesitated a moment. "It's 
Eliza Gubbins." 

"Eliza '' 

"Gubbins," she returned firmly. 

"Yes. . . . Thanks. Well, good-bye. How far 
did you say it was to Matehocken?" 

"I didn't say. But it's just a little ways." 

He replaced his cap, and she watched him set ofif 
down the path, pushing the bicycle before him through 
the heavy sand. 

When he had gone some little distance she called — 

"Be sure and remember Chicken Joe Meakins !" 

He paused, looking back. 

"What?" 

She stood smiling at the head of the path, silhouetted 
against the background of pine-trunks. 

"Chicken — Joe — Meakins I Not the other — 
Meakins !" 

"All right!" 

His voice came back to her faintly. Fan walked 
back to where Phemy sat giggling on the pine- 
needles. 

"Say, I do call you mean!" Phemy said. "All that 
way around. He'll have to walk every step." 



26 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"Do him good." 

She leaned back against a pine tree and began to 
laugh. 

"He might have bought some crabs. He could eat 
them on the way." 

"Do you think he was crazy?" said Phemy after a 
moment. 

"I wouldn't wonder." 

"Maybe he's stayin' in the village. Say, we might 
meet him again." 

Her tone seemed to sketch possibilities ofi future ret- 
ribution. 

"Maybe." 

"I guess he's got money. He had awful nice boots 
on," said Phemy. "I bet he'll be hopping mad when 
he finds out." 

Fan picked up her bundle and moved off nonchal- 
antly between the trees. 

"He shouldn't have been so fresh about our Jersey 
roads," she said. 

Some twenty yards from the river-bank the trees 
grew less closely, and a gleam of yellow showed be- 
tween their trunks. The two girls came out upon a 
hard clay road that stretched level between the pine 
woods on either side. The breeze sang in the stretched 
telegraph wires. On one of the gaunt poles, nearljr 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 27 

opposite, was nailed a weather-beaten signboard. The 
half obliterated lettering read : — 

TO MATEHOCKEN Ij4 MILES. 

Fan paused, and looked up at it pensively. 

"I wish he hadn't gone in such a hurry," she said. 
"I ought to have told him that Chicken Joe was my 
uncle, and that he could stop at the house and ask 
for a glass of milk." 



Ill 



"T DO hope they make you comfortable at Task- 
A er's," Mrs. Hewitt said. "I don't know where 
else to send you, an* that's a fact It was only 
this morning the doctor said it was typhoid, and I'd 
been hoping all along it wasn't anything, and it was 
too late to telegraph. I thought of Mrs. Powell, but 
she's full up, and her sister ain't takin' any boarders 
this year so long as she's got her husband bad, and 
there isn't anywhere else this end of the town, not un- 
less you go down to the beach, and most of the houses 
there are full. It's been an awful early season 
this year. So I thought you might make out at 
Tasker's just for a day or two anyway, and then see. 
Some folks mightn't like it on account of it's being 
a saloon, but they do take people sometimes. I don't 
know what the cookin's like. There was an artist stay- 
ing there last summer." 

"Oh, if he survived it I should hope I can," the 
young man laughed. He stood, swinging his cap 

28 



THE PRICE OE YOUTH 29 

between his fingers, on the lower step of Mrs. Hewitt's 
porch. She would not let him come any nearer, and 
she stood now above him, in a position of interven- 
tion between himself and the house, repressed energy 
in every line of her plain kindly face and trim figure. 
She seemed to worry about the illness far more on 
his account than on her own. "It's too bad," she said ; 
"just as I'd got all fixed up for you and all. I went 
over to Tasker's myself this afternoon, as soon as the 
doctor'd gone. I didn't see Tasker, but I saw 
his daughter. I guess she'll make things comfort- 
able for you, if she takes a fancy to. She's queer, but 
she'll do it as long as I put it down to obliging 
me. I guess they won't be any too sorry to have some- 
one in. And you don't have to stay more than the 
night if it don't suit you." 

"Does the daughter run the house?" the young 
man asked. He had visions of an elderly spinster of 
uncertain age, who would object to his smoking in 
the bedroom. 

"As much as it is run, I guess. They call it an 
hotel, but they don't take regular guests much, not 
since Mrs. Tasker died. Tasker makes his money 
out of the saloon. They do say round here he's pretty 
tough, but I don't know. . . . He's awful particu- 
lar some ways. He won't have anyone drunk around 



30 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

there. He won't serve 'em. He's the sort of man you 
don't want to quarrel with, too ; I guess what he says 
goes." 

She gazed reflectively for a moment on the little 
close-cropped lawn, with its tidy flower-bed and ribbon 
border gay with verbenas. Through the screen-door 
behind her one could catch a glimpse of spotless table- 
linen and glassware, and from somewhere came a smell 
of coffee. 

"I'm awful sorry I can't ask you in, Mr. King," she 
apologised, "but I wouldn't like to take the risk of it. 
You don't want to get sick again just as soon as you 
come down here. I told Fan Tasker you'd want sup- 
per as soon as you got in. Had a pretty long ride, 
didn't you?" 

"Long enough. I missed my way, or it wouldn't 
have taken me so long." 

She looked him up and down in a motherly way. 

"I should think you were tired out You look 
tired." 

"I'll be all right when I get a rest. It's been pretty 
hot part of the way. It isn't so much of a ride, you 
know," he added hastily. 

"Maybe not, if you're in good — ^practice for it." She 
had been going to say health, but changed the word 
with a tact that did not, however, escape him. "Sen- 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 31 

sitive, I guess/' she thought as she saw him shift his 
position. 

"Well, I hope they make you comfortable," she said 
again. "You'll know the house, won't you? It's just 
a piece up the Heronwood road — ^anyone can tell you. 
I had Willie take your bag over this afternoon. It 
came by express." 

The aspect of Tasker's, upon his amval, did not 
strike King very favourably. It was a frame house, 
grey and unpainted, standing in a clearing surrounded 
on three sides by pine-woods, black in the dusk. The 
swing^g arc-lamp outside, which threw a circle of 
light on the sandy road, showed up the lettering on a 
faded signboard above the front porch : 

"The Cedars Hotel. Cyclists' Rest. 
Proprietor J. Tasker." 

His bedroom was small and square, with white- 
washed walls, peeling in places, and one window that 
had mosquito netting nailed over it from the outside. 
It held no superabundance of furniture, merely a wash- 
stand with a chipped pitcher and bowl, one chair and 
a tiny bureau of yellow-painted pine. There was a 
small looking-glass hung on a nail, and a strip of rag 
carpet, unsecured to fche bare floor, which rucked under 



32 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

his feet every time he moved. He tried to look out 
of window, but could see nothing. It was nearly 
dark outside, but from somewhere out of the obscurity 
there reached him subdued barnyard sounds, the sleepy 
wrangHng of chickens, the rattle of a chain across a 
dog-kennel. 

He washed, handling the slip of yellow soap gingerly, 
and found his way down the steep uncarpeted staircase 
to the sitting-room, where the table was laid, and sup- 
per served to him a few minutes later by the same 
woman who had shown him to his room. She was lean 
and elderly and dejected. Her scanty hair, her skin 
and light eyes seemed to tone to one negative hue, the 
same pale brownish tint of her limp gingham dress. 
Her attitude toward him was one of mingled suspicion, 
curiosity, and determination not to put herself out for 
stray visitors. She dumped the dishes down on the 
table in a haphazard way, and told him in a mournful 
high-pitched voice that there were crackers on the side- 
board. The information had the value of complaint; 
King gathered that she revealed the presence of crack- 
ers in the house under protest. 

The room held the close indescribable smell of all 
country sitting-rooms, mingled in this case with an 
odour of spirits and stale tobacco from the bar beyond. 
Left to himself. King gazed about him fastidiously at 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 33 

the shabby haircloth sofa and chairs, the obliterated 
carpet, the soiled blue-patterned walls hung with 
insurance calendars and chromo advertisements of 
tobacco firms. One, over the fireplace, represented a 
soubrette in a much abbreviated bathing-dress and 
openwork stockings, smoking a cigarette against a 
background of blue sea and yellow sand. There was 
a stuflFed fish-hawk, with wings extended rigidly, on a 
stand above the sideboard. On the coarse tablecloth 
someone had put a china bowl filled with sweetpeas. 
Their fragile beauty, their curling tendrils and butter- 
fly wings, looked oddly out of place among their sur- 
roundings. They made the one touch of freshness in 
the room. ICing wondered about them. The woman 
who had brought in his tea did not seem the sort of 
person to put flowers on a supper-table. It occurred 
to him that they might represent a deference rather 
to Mrs. Hewitt than himself, a kind of extraneous 
effort at having things nice. He remembered with a 
grim smile that his chance for comfort, in that lady's 
view, had seemed to depend upon Miss Tasker's 
"taking a fancy." If she had taken one — and Mrs. 
Hewitt had not appeared over-sanguine — it had 
stopped short at the flowers. The meat was chippy 
and the coffee execrable. King felt too tired to eat, 
under discouraging conditions, and he pushed back 

D 



34 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

his chair presently, leaving his supper all but untouched, 
and wandered restlessly about the room. 

Somehow, though he could not tell why, the atmo- 
sphere of the house contrived to impress him un- 
pleasantly. He was conscious of a dislike for the 
place which went deeper than mere fastidious criticism. 
He looked about him with a growing disapproval that 
almost amounted to condemnation. The air that came 
through the mosquito screens at the windows was close 
and heavy, charged with the electric oppression of 
an impending storm. He had seen it coming up 
as he left Mrs. Hewitt's house, blue heavy thunder-* 
heads piled against the fading sunset. A few flies 
buzzed stupidly near the ceiling, and others were 
trying to make their way in through the wire screen. 
A moth blundered too near the lamp chimney, and 
the smell of its singed body sickened him. He 
lit a pipe, and scowled at the mouldering fish-hawk 
on the sideboard. 

From the adjacent kitchen came the clatter of dish- 
washing, and presently a voice, shrill, high-pitched, 
quavering, raised in the refrain of a hymn-tune. It 
seemed that the singer was chanting aggressively, 
determinedly, as in confidence of opposition, accen- 
tuating each line with a vigorous assault on the 
crockery. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 35 

'^here man— sions stand in— state— ly rows 

A home's pre— pared for— me, 
Where I may in thanks— giving dwell 
Through all— eter— nity I" 

It reached, in growing crescendo, a wild defiance. 
One could imagine a whirling of spiritual battle- 
axes. King paused, and his mouth curved apprecia- 
tively. 

*'Then glo— ry, glory, let— us sing. 

An' glo— ry ever morel 
Where an— gel voices ev— er ring 
Upon — ^that hap — ^py shore 1" 

There was silence for a time, broken only by swash- 
ing of water and the rattle of plates. Then the voice 
rose again, this time in a tone of calm assertive su- 
periority. 

"I have a Saviour, a loving Saviour, 
He has forgiven my every sin. 
And He has promised, if 1*11 be faithful " 

King yawned, his teeth closing with a snap on the 
replaced pipe-stem. The woman in the kitchen con- 
tinued to advertise her security in Divine favour. He 
heard her relating, in a high treble of pride, how she 
was going to be saved, and nobody else was. Her 
statements implied, to his thinking, a scarcely justifi- 
able slur upon the rest of the household. 



36 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

He caught sight of some books on a shelf at one 
side of the fireplace, and moved over to them in- 
stinctively. There were some odd numbers of maga- 
zines, a few tattered paper novels — ^the usual collection 
of a country household— and at one end, divided 
from these by the current almanac, Walden, The 
Odd Number, and a slim vellum-bound edition of the 
Rubaiyat. His hand fell on the latter volume at 
once, not without a certain sympathy for its position. 
It was like meeting on old friend in vulgar circum- 
stances. He took the book from its place, smiling 
curiously, and as he ruffled the leaves through a 
paper fluttered from between them. His eye caught 
the written words on it as he stooped to pick it up, 
and they seemed to supply the final quaint incon- 
gruity. 

"From too much love of living, 

From hope and fear set free, 
We thank with brief thanksgiving 

Whatever gods may be; 
That no life lives forever, 
That dead men rise up never ^** 

There was a step in the entry. He slipped the 
paper back, closing the book, and returned it with 
guilty haste t6 its place as someone came into the 
room. 



IV 



IT was the girl he had met that afternoon on the 
river-bank. He acknowledged their acquaintance 
with a grim half-smile as she paused just inside the 
doorway. Her hair, barely dry yet, was fastened 
now in a knot at her neck, and the alteration added 
bewilderingly to her age. It changed her from the 
short-skirted hoyden into a dignified young woman. 
She had a white dress on — the sleeves rolled to her 
elbows as the cotton shirt had been — and a bunch of 
the same sweetpeas that stood on the table were 
tucked into her waistband. King removed the pipe 
from his mouth and regarded her steadily. 

"Good evening, Miss Gubbins !" he said. 

"Good evening," she returned with no trace of 
embarrassment. "I came to see whether you had 
everything you wanted. Oh, you've finished. There 
was more coffee. I guess Mrs. Goble forgot to tell 
you." 

"I've had everything, thanks." 

"It's quite easy to do that, in the pines. I'm afraid 
if you lived here long you would have to become a 
convert to the simple life." 

37 



38 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"Crabs," he murmured as she went to the table and 
began to pile the dishes together. "Or do you keep 
those for the permanent boarders?" 

"Most of them. Sometimes we eat them ourselves, 
on occasions of great festivity." 

"I see." 

A scarlet sweetpea had dropped from its fellows 
and lay across the tablecloth, and she picked it up and 
put it back in the bowl. Then she moved to one of 
the windows. 

"Isn't it close?" she said. "There's going to be a 
storm. Did you find Chicken Joe's all right?" 

"IfoundMr. Meakins'l" 

"Oh." She kept her back turned to him, looking 
out through the mosquito screen. 

"I rather gathered that he had a prejudice against 
the title you were good enough to bestow on him." 

"I'm afraid he has. It's his modesty. He is by 
nature simple and unsophisticated." 

"I notice," said King, addressing her averted head, 
"that you don't have the good grace to be ashamed 
of yourself." 

She turned, her fingers resting on the window-ledge 
behind her. "Did you expect I would ?" 

"Not in the least. The nature that finds a joy in 
deceiving the innocent wayfarer usually goes hand in 
hand with a hardened conscience." 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 39 

"Or no conscience at all, I suppose." 

"Oh, everyone has a conscience! It's a part of 
one's personal furniture. To go about denying that 
one has a conscience is nearly as conventional and 
unmodem as to go about denying the existence of 
God — ^and I should imagine as unsatisfactory. You 
can't discard your conscience in practical everyday 
life any more than you can discard your boots. But 
the normal conscience is never assertive. A sensitive 
conscience argues defect, like a sensitive digestion. I 
should think that you have a refreshingly normal one 1" 
he finished. 

Fan rearranged the flowers at her belt. She hated 
people who were dogmatic. 

"Did you enjoy Mrs. Coble's singing?" she asked. 

"I enjoyed her enjoyment of it." 

"She only sings like that when my father's out. I 
think it's a way of reassuring her soul while in the 
camp of the ungodly." 

"Self-congratulation ?" 

"Something of that sort." 

"I always envy those kind of people their position, 
don't you?" he said. "It must be so comfortable to 
feel absolutely certain, beyond all danger of argument, 
that you yourself are going to be saved, no matter what 
anyone else is." 

"Mrs. Coble's going to be saved. She told me 



40 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

all about it. She's got a passport. She was converted 
four years ago at a revival meeting, and she hasn't 
gotten over the glory of it yet. She recounts her ex- 
periences over the washtub when she comes here to 
work. She takes it as a personal affront that I don't 
go to church, but if ever I do go it seems to make her 
madder than ever. I can't think why." 

"Perhaps she's afraid you'll get in ahead of her." 

"I wonder. She does the minister's washing, and I 
think she's scared, if I get converted, that he'll give it 
to me." 

"Does she live here ?" 

"No. She only comes once a week to work — ^un- 
der strong protest. She makes no disguise of regard- 
ing the household collectively as damned, but she 
doesn't mind taking our money so long as it lasts — 
seein' it's usl" 

"It's a curious fact," said King, "that the godly 
usually contrive to exist on the shekels of the ungodly. 
One shudders to think what would happen if the un- 
godly were ever to be wiped out. There would be a 
sudden and extensive begging of bread from door to 
door." 

"Even the minister's washing wouldn't go far." 

"What are five shirts among so many?" King mur- 
mured, studying his pipe-bowl. 

Fan looked up, and caught the whimsical lift of 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 41 

his eyes. There was something amused in them, some- 
thing challenging; they seemed determined to get at 
the truth of her, and she resented their pertinacity. 
She moved back to the table and picked up some of 
the supper dishes, preparatory to carrying them out to 
the kitchen. 

"Can't I help you?" he offered. 

"Never mind, thanks." 

He held the door open for her. As she went out 
she paused to say : 

"My father won't be back till about ten, I expect. 
He had to go over to Heronwood on business. I don't 
know whether you care to stay up for him. I hope 
you find your room comfortable." 

"Thanks. About a lamp . . ." he hesitated. 
There had been none in his bedroom. 

"Oh, you can take the lamp up out of here when you 
get ready," Fan said. 

After she had gone he refilled his pipe and wandered 
out. The bar, as he passed through, was deserted. 
The light gleamed on bottles and glasses ranged in dec- 
orous rows, on the big gilt-framed mirror overlaid 
with advertisements of whiskey. The floor was strewn 
with sawdust. There was a cash-register on one end 
of the bar, and at the other a gramophone. Near it 
lay part of last Sunday's New York Journal 



42 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

He pushed open the sagging screen-door and went 
out on the porch. Outside it seemed almost closer 
than indoors, airless and heavy. The porch extended 
along the front and one side of the house, and he 
walked round to the end of it and sat down on a 
rocking-chair that was just outside the sitting-room 
windows. 

The mosquitoes were thick. They hummed about 
him, settled on his hands and face, barely discouraged 
by the tobacco smoke. From the window behind 
him the lamplight threw a rectangular flood of light 
on the worn boards of the porch, and a blossomless 
honeysuckle, twined round one of the wooden pillars, 
stood out in relief against the soft darkness. Beyond 
the clearing the pines stretched like a black level sea. 
The stillness, broken only by the mosquitoes and the 
rasping of insects in the weeds, was absolute and 
oppressive. 

From where he sat he could catch a sidewise glimpse 
of the road, lit by the electric lamp in front of the 
house. A telegraph-pole stood out grey and gaunt. 
Further was a gleam of whitewashed palings, and a 
light in some cottage window, that moved presently 
and was gone. Once he caught sight of a man and 
a girl, walking along the opposite side of the road. 
The girl had a light dress that was divided midway 
by a horizontal black bar. They vanished up the 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 43 

shadow of a side path, enfolded and lost in the purple 
darkness. 

A yellow waggon drove by presently, toward the 
village. He could hear the growing rumble of 
wheels on the clay road long before it came into sight 
Later, a cyclist passed. Neither stopped at the 
house. 

There was another vacant chair near to his on the 
porch, and he wondered whether the girl would come 
out. He could hear her moving about, at intervals, in 
the room behind him, and a shadow occasionally ob- 
scured the lamplight. Once he fancied he heard voices, 
and the tinkle of the cash-register. He fell to specu- 
lating curiously about his fellow-guests. If he had 
any, they were not in evidence. He rather gathered 
that the girl was alone in the house. He wondered 
how many nights a week Tasker had business at 
Heronwood, and how, in this isolated spot, a mile from 
the village, he managed to make the saloon pay at 
all. Business, from what he had seen, did not appear 
to be brisk. The place had a look of shiftlessness, al- 
most neglect; an air of depending indifferently upon 
chance custom. 

Added to the physical weariness from his ride, the 
pines began to exert upon him a drowsiness, a leaden 
spell of stupor. He could scarcely keep his eyes open. 
He stretched and looked at his watch; it was barely 



44 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

ten o'clock. He thought of going up to his room, but 
felt too tired to stir from where he sat. The working 
strain of the past eighteen months, culminating in the 
breakdown that had sent him away, had been a 
heavy one. Out here free for the first time in 
many months from the noise and turmoil of the 
city, its ceaseless demands upon nerves and brain, it 
began to tell upon him all at once. He was al- 
most too overtaxed to be immediately glad of the 
respite. The din of the newspaper ofiice was 
still in his ears. It seemed impossible to realise 
that for three months he was to be absolutely idle. 
He leaned his head back against the chair and 
stared out at the dark enclosing pine-woods in a 
kind of restful half consciousness. 

For some time past the storm had been drawing 
closer, the air heavier. Presently a near-at-hand 
peal of thunder broke the stillness, and he roused to 
hear the first sweeping patter of the rain on grass 
and weeds. It had a soothing sound. He rose, 
stretching his stiflFened limbs, and went to the edge of 
the porch. A fresh dampness met his face with the 
grateful smell of the wet earth. The air had grown 
cooler all at once with the breaking of the storm, and 
the electricity magically dispelled his drowsiness; he 
felt keenly awake and rested. 

A white blur caught his eye, moving leisurely 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 45 

between the pine trees across the clearing. Coming 
nearer, he saw that it was Fan Taskcr. She was 
bareheaded and walked slowly, her skirt held up 
from the drenched ground; once in a while she 
paused, lifting her face to meet the sweep of the 
rain. The slowness of her movements, her non- 
chalant ease out there in the path of the storm, 
somehow fascinated him. He took the pipe from 
his mouth and stood watching her as she came 
imhurriedly nearer. When she was quite close, in 
the light from the sitting-room window, she turned 
her head and saw him. 

"The storm's come," she said. "I thought it 
would. It's going to be a bad one." 

"I love cheerful prophets I Do you know you're 
getting rather damp out there?" he added. 

"It won't hurt me." She stepped up on the 
porch, and shook out her wet skirt. The movement 
revealed inadvertently that she had no stockings on. 
"I just went round to the bam to see if the horse 
was shut in all right. They hate lightning so." 

"Do you get many storms round here?" 

"A good many. They follow the river. Why? 
Do you mind them?" 

He looked at her reflectively. 

"I don't know that I do. But they put rather 



46 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

pertinent questions, don't you think? There are 
times when, one's appreciation of a thunderstorm is 
determined by the value one places on one's own 
existence. That's all very well, but when it comes 
to a question of the value Providence places on one's 
existence it's humiliating." 

"Always assuming Providence places any," said 
Fan, who talked for the sake of talking. 

"One has to assume something." 

"It's very comfortable if one can take things for 
granted," she said. 

"It's not merely comfortable, it's necessary." 

She turned her head, leaning against the pillar. 

"To believe in things you can't prove?" 

"To take them for granted," said King. "The 
curse of the age is the fatal facility for disproving 
ever)^hing. You can sit still in an armchair and 
disprove the whole mechanism of the universe, if it 
aflFords you entertainment. The exercise has ap- 
pealed always to me as peculiarly dreary. It's the 
sort of thing that doesn't give you any satisfaction 
when it's done. The fact that we are here at all 
argues that we are here for a purpose, and we have 
the potential value of that purpose. It all reverts," 
he went on, knocking out his pipe, "to the question 
of whether we consider the scheme of creation to 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 47 

have been wholly humorous and irresponsible — ^in 
which case the humour seems of doubtful taste— or 
whether it is to be taken- as serious. If it's a joke» 
it is a joke of such colossal proportion and com- 
pleteness that we ought to reverence it. Its humour 
is more awe-inspiring than mere seriousness. I beg 
pardon," he added abruptly. "I am transgressing 
upon the province of the lady who sings hymns over 
her dish-washing!" 

"And who is at this moment," said Fan, "on her 
knees in a very stuffy back kitchen, with all the 
shutters fastened, praying to be excused from im- 
mediate tenancy of her gilded mansion." She pulled 
a dead leaf from the honeysuckle. "Isn't it funny," 
she said, "that religious people are always so afraid 
of dying?" 

"It isn't peculiar to them." 

She turned grey curious eyes upon him. 

"Are you?" 

"Not at all — ^in the abstract. I share the general 
prejudice against dying at any specified time. Nobody 
minds dying to-morrow, but there are always a 
hundred reasons for finding it inconvenient to-day. 
If a wild-eyed man advanced upon you now with a 
hatchet and said, 'Prepare to meet thy Maker!' you 
wouldn't stand still." 



48 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

*Td want to see what he was going to do." 

"No you wouldn't. You'd say, 'Sir, not for myself 
do I indulge in selfish objection. But I pray you 
reflect that I have seventeen small brothers and 
sisters who look to me for daily bread, wherefore 
must I descend forthwith to the river which floweth 
hard by in the county of Monmouth and take seventy 
times seven crabs ' " 

"I could scare up a better one than that," she 
interrupted. "And it wasn't seventeen. It was 
eleven. Don't confuse your facts." 

"It might as easily have been seventeen. How 
frightful," he reflected, "if we were to be punished 
by having our lies come true! What an awful con- 
ception of Nemesis! I was travelling once with a 
man who tried to palm himself off as a bishop; he'd 
have had a dreadful awakening. Supposing a relent- 
less fate this afternoon had frozen you into the eldest 
daughter of a multitudinous family. How I'd have 
gone on my way rejoicing!" 

"I should have come home and given them Paris 
green in their tea." 

"I believe you would," he said, looking at her. "I 
can imagine you would have the courage of your 
opinions in little matters of that sort." 

The lamplight from the window caught her face 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 49 

and hair as she half sat, half leaned, against the 
porch rail, with an almost boyish ease and indiffer- 
ence of pose. Behind her the lightning played in 
quivering sheets and flashes, revealing sudden vague 
outlines against the sky, tossed trees and jagged 
foliage. The rain was falling in torrents now, with 
a steady solid impact on the shingled roof, a scythe- 
like sweep in the grass. It poured off the eaves 
and ran down the gutter-pipe with the noise of a 
small cataract. 

Fan stretched out her hand to feel the drops on it. 

"It's better than being in the house, don't you 
think ?"»she said presently. "I hate being indoors in 
a storm. We can go in if it gets worse." 

King thought of the little close sitting-room with 
the kerosine lamp. 

"Oh, it's nice here." He passed his hand across 
his forehead, watching the lightning. "I felt so 
sleepy, a while back," he said. "I suppose it was 
the pines. They have a tremendously restful effect." 

"They reflect the local character," said Fan. "You 
needn't apologise. The analogy is so obvious." ^ 

"My dear lady, I trust even a thunderstorm 
wouldn't render me so craven as to apologise for 
an analogy I never made !" 

"I beg pardon for confusing you with the Sunday 
newspapers.'* 

E 



so THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

He looked at her with contemplative reverence. 

"Do you really read them?" 

"Oh, we get them sometimes. Round the butter," 
she explained. 

"I wondered where you got your education," said 
King brutally. "A little reflection of course might 
have told me." 

"We have a circulating system, in the winter. 
Each family gets a pound of butter a week, and we 
exchange the wrappers. I've picked up quite a lot 
that way. There are compensations, even in the 
wilderness." 

"Don't you have — what do they call them — spell- 
ing-bees? Or is that purely a Boston institution?" 

"Oh, yes. The minister gets them up every third 
Friday in the month. We all sit round on the floor, 
and he starts the word at the head of the class. The 
only trouble is that one forgets in the summer what 
one learned in the winter." 

"You interest me," said King. "I shall be so glad 
when I get back to town to contradict certain preva- 
lent delusions." 

"About the benighted condition of New Jersey 
aborigines. Oh, I can tell you a lot. We have a 
Chautauqua .branch, too." 

"I shall remember about the butter," he promised. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 51 

"You might induce someone to start a Butter 
Mission for the Dissemination of Useful Literature 
among the Local Unreclaimed." 

"But what do you do in winter?" he asked, 
changing his tone. "I should think it must be rather 
fine here." 

She shot a quick glance at him. 

"That's what all the city people say. There was 
an artist came down here one winter, and he raved 
about the place. He stayed at the hotel down by the 
station. He stood it out till Christmas and then he 
left because the steam-heating apparatus broke down." 

"You don't like it?" 

"Oh, I like it. I suppose one gets to like any place 
if you live there all the time and never go anywhere 
else. It's a dispensation of providence. You believe 
in that, don't you?" 

"I'm afraid I do. I know it's a hopelessly old- 
fashioned admission." 

"IVe often thought I'd like to get hold of a real 
optimist," said Fan, "and invite him down here for 
a month in the middle of January. I bet he'd recant !" 

"Oh, most probably. Someone has defined opti- 
mism as the quality which enables one to bear up 
under other people's misfortunes. Have you many 
neighbours round here?" 



52 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"Dozens." 

"That's good." 

"Yes," said Fan thoughtfully. 

"Who was the girl that was with you this after- 
noon?" 

"Phemy Martin. She comes here to help with the 
house. She lives up the road, that little white house 
you pass, with all the flowers outside. She's a niece 
of Mrs. Coble's. By the way, she reproached me for 
misdirecting you this afternoon." 

"Yes? I'm glad there's some principle extant in 
the neighbourljood." 

"She said it was a pity to send you all that way 
round because you had such nice boots on," said Fan 
pensively. 

"I shall take the earliest opportunity of thanking 
her. Does she always giggle like that?" 

Fan's mouth straightened a little. 

"Phemy's a nice girl," she said. "And she's a good 
girl, too." 

The quizzical flicker passed across his eyes again. 
He bent forward and gravely knocked his pipe out 
against the rail. Then he rose, and for a moment 
they stood side by side, looking out. The storm was 
almost overhead now, and the lightning came in 
incessant flashes. It seemed to twist and run like a 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 53 

snake across the wet surface of the yard, taking a 
hundred shapes as it fled. Suddenly, following a 
momentary lull in the storm, a flash more vivid than 
the rest divided the sky with a jagged line of white 
fire, like a contorted sword, and from it there fell 
what looked like a ball of quicksilver. It seemed to 
hang suspended against the blue-black of the sky, 
then drop slowly, a living silver streak, into the dark 
far-reaching sea of pines. King held his breath; it 
was barely a second, but it seemed to him to have 
taken minutes to travel from sky to earth. Then 
came a splintering venomous snarl that split and 
gathered and broke again, shivering crash on crash. 
The house rocked to the impact. 

King turned to the girl at his side. She was lean- 
ing far out over the rail, her lips parted and her face 
intent 

"Did you see that?" she cried. "It struck some- 
thing. You could hear." 

He put his hand on her arm. 

"Come inside. You arn't safe there." 

"Safe!" 

Fan laughed, shaking back the wind-tossed hair 
from her forehead. She turned, slipping from him 
and ran down the porch steps. For a moment her 
face mocked him through the lightning flashes that 



54 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

played about her. It seemed as if the spirit of the 
storm had got into her blood. 

"Come back," he called. "Where are you going?" 

She did not answer, only laughed again, impishly, 
and he set his teeth and ran after her. His feet sank 
into clay and puddles and the rain whipped against his 
face. He could catch the white mothlike glimmer of 
her dress ahead of him, between the lightning flashes, 
and in the bluest quiver of all he saw her for a second 
illumined, hair and eyes and reckless lifted chin. 
Then, as the lightning failed, the impression was- 
wiped out. He stumbled through warm rain-smitten 
darkness. 

"MissTaskerl" 

"Well?" 

He was within a hand's-breadth of her when a 
strange blood-coloured flash leaped almost under his 
feet, writhing like a live thing and prolonged, it 
seemed to him, through blinding moments. He flung 
out his arm, instinctively, and a cool strong hand 
caught his out of the darkness, dragging him forward. 
Overhead something crashed and fell. 



SHE half dragged, half carried him back to the 
house — ^it was barely a dozen yards, and he was 
a slight weight to her strength — and got him into 
one of the chairs in the bar. Phemy was in there, a 
small crouched figure in sopping muslin. She sprang 
to her feet as Fan came in. 

"Oh, Fan, ain't it awful! It come on so sudden. 
I was up the road. Oh, Fan, whatever's happened? 
Is he dead?" 

"No!" said Fan sharply. Her teeth were set tight 
with the exertion of lifting, and her wet skirt got 
about her feet and impeded her movements. In the 
excitement of the moment she forgot to wonder at 
Phemy's presence there, at that time of night. She 
dragged King to a chair and put him in it ; his whole 
body seemed to go limp in her hold. "He's only 
hurt, and he fainted. That dead limb off the cherry 
tree fell and hit him; I knew it would hurt saneone 
one day. Get me down the brandy." 

She loosened his collar, while Phemy went blindly 
to the shelf behind the bar. 

55 



56 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"Which bottle is it? I can't find it! Is it one of 
these r 

A flash danced along the shining glassware before 
her and she put up her hands to her face with a 
smothered cry. Fan pushed past her roughly and 
caught up one of the star-labelled bottles and a 
glass. She tried to force the brandy between his 
teeth, but they were clenched, and the greater part of 
it went down her sleeve. She shook back the wet 
hair that kept getting in her eyes and tried again. 
Some drops found their right way this time. She 
fancied his closed eyes contracted a little, as with 
pain. His hands were icy cold and damp, and his 
face, white against the dark ruffled hair, looked 
almost unearthly. Pallor accentuated its delicacy; 
it looked like the face of some dead martyr in a 
painting. 

Phemy, in a comer of the big lighted room, was 
paralysed with fear, a pitiful heap of muslin and 
spoiled ribbons. Her pretty round face was strained 
and unnatural. She cowered at each crash of thunder 
as at a whip-lash. Had Fan been in a mood to 
notice, she would have seen sanething more than 
mere physical terror of the storm in her wide 
shrinking eyes ; the deep abiding fear of an un- 
shared knowledge. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 57 

"Oh, Fan, ain't it awful!" she kept saying. "Ain't 
it awful! Do you think it'll strike us? I know it 
will! It's awful. Oh, God 1" 

She began to pray hysterically, her face buried in 
her shaking hands. 

"What's the matter with you?" Fan flung over her 
shoulder. "Get off the floor. You never used to be 
scared of storms like this. What do you think's 
going to hurt you, you little fool?" 

"But I am, I am/ I'm scared of this one! O — oh, 
listen!" 

She got to her feet, and stood trembling from head 
to foot, her hands clenching and unclenching them- 
selves wildly in her drenched muslin skirt. At 
another time Fan would have laughed. Now she 
turned on her savagely. 

"Don't stand there looking dumb! Get to the 
telephone if you can't do anything else. Call up 
Doctor Connolly for me." 

She bent over the unconscious figure in the chair. 
Phemy went cringing to the telephone and fumbled 
with the printed card. 

"What's his number ? I can't find it !" 

"Oh, fifty something! Be quick!" 

A peal of thunder, as she laid her hand on the 
telephone, made her crouch and dodge. 



58 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"Fan, I dasn't touch it! I dasn't. I'm scared to. 
It ain't safe in a storm, with the fuse in an' all 1" 

The bell rang out, a nervous electric jangle. 

"I can't hear a thing. It's all buzzin'," Phemy 
whimpered. "I guess it's gone wrong." 

"You little fool, get away then! Let me come." 
She caught the receiver out of the girl's hand, 
almost flinging her aside. "Now look on the card 
and find his number. Hurry up!" 

She rang up again and waited. 

"Fifty-three. Oh, Fan, you'll be struck!" 

"Hello! Hello. . . . Give me fifty-three, please. 
Fifty-three. Doctor Connolly." 

She spoke unhurriedly and distinctly, her eyes still 
drawn to the slight limp figure across the room. The 
whole room seemed keyed, expectant. The lamp 
made points of light on the tumblers and bottles 
ranged behind the bar, and each point was an eye 
watching. It was hours before the confused buzz at 
the other end of the wire became intelligible. 

"Hello ! Hello! Is that Doctor Connolly? This 
is Tasker — Fan Tasker. Can you come over? 
There's been an accident — ^what? . . . No, a tree- 
branch hit him. I say a tree-branch " 

The voice at the other end drew to an indeter- 
minate hum. The connection was lost again. "Oh, 
damn!" she said sharply. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 59 

"Hello! Yes, I can hear you. Something crossed 
the wire, I guess. Tasker. Yes. ... All right. 
Hello? No, only stunned. I think his arm's 
broken.'* 

She rang off, hanging up the tube, and went back 
to King. His face looked ghastly to her. The smell 
of the spilled brandy clung to his clothing. She 
tried moving his left arm gently, and he groaned. 
Phemy drew near, fascination and curiosity working 
against her fear. She gave a little cry. 

"Oh, Fan, he's bleedin'! It's all over your dress. 
Look!" 

Fan looked down. There was a smudge of 
crimson on the front of her bodice. 

"It's only a scratch," she said. "Don't look like 
that! Did you never see anyone faint before?" 

Phemy caught her breath. 

"He's dead. I know he's dead! Look at him!" 
She spoke with hysteric resignment, gripped in the 
awe of fate. "I wish the storm'd stop. Oh, ain't 
it ever goin' to stop!" 

"You might think you wanted him to die, for all 
the use you've been to prevent it! I tell you he's all 
right. Do you think I don't know? Hand me that 
glass again." 

She worked in a cool, dogged silence, as if she 



6o THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

were fighting against some tangible enemy. Pre- 
sently the colour came back to his face a little, 
making it less death-like. He opened his eyes, 
looking at her in a dreamy, fixed way, then closed 
them again. The wandering look haunted her. 
She tried to think how long it would be before the 
doctor could get to the house. He would have to 
drive, unless he came on his motor-cycle through 
the rain, and there would be the horse to put in. 
Forty minutes, certainly. She looked at the clock. 

Phemy was sobbing still. The girl's helpless 
terror, added to her own strained nerves, seemed 
more than she could bear. 

She looked at her with a passionate contempt. 

"What's the matter — scared still? Do you think 
God's got nothing better to think of than killing 
you?" 

"I— don't knowl" 

The answer was awed, hopeless. There was almost 
a dignity in it, the dignity of a final resignment. 
Phemy's blue childish eyes held a deeper fear than 
Fan guessed. She turned away with a short, hard 
laugh. 

"I guess you needn't worry !" 

The storm had decreased in violence, passing over 
slowly to the westward. The lightning was less 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 6i 

vivid, and the thunder came at longer intervals. 
The worst of it was over. 

Presently Phemy began to laugh. It was the 
hysteric reaction from fear. She giggled mirthlessly 
through chattering teeth. 

"Oh, Fan, you looked so mad when you went to 
the 'phone! There you was swearin' " 

"If you don't stop that noise," said Fan intensely, 
"I'll kill you whether God does or not !" 

There was a slushy grating of wheels outside, 
drawn to a pause in the yard. A horse's hoofs 
clattered, and someone swore roughly. It was her 
father returned from Heronwood. 



VI 



MRS. HEWITT had company. She had taken 
off her apron and sat out on the breezy end 
of the porch, rocking with brisk nervous energy, her 
mind divided between hospitality and a desire to 
return to her household gods. The company sat 
opposite to her, rocking also; a stout placid woman 
in a tight-fitting dress of brown cotton. She had 
walked up the road from her house without a hat — 
the fashions of city visitors set a pace which Mate- 
hocken also followed, though soberly and always 
within respectable limits — and her black sunshade 
was leaned carefully against the porch-rail beside her. 
A cool sea breeze tempered the July heat, and set 
the little aspen at the side of the house twinkling. 
The front lawn was enclosed from the sidewalk by 
a low ornamental paling, painted light chocolate, like 
the house. It was a comparatively new house, and 
hardwood finished inside. The hall and rooms were 
big and airy, and all the mosquito screens fitted. 
Everything about Mrs. Hewitt's house looked tidy 

62 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 63 

and well cared for ; the very verbenas and phlox in 
the front garden grew better than other people's 
flowers, if one excepted the riotous blaze of colour 
that overran the ground about Mrs. Martin's cottage, 
a mile up the road. She had a genius for manage- 
ment, but her management was never of the kind 
that would make a house unhomelike. People who 
once boarded at Mrs. Hewitt's generally came again, 
summer after summer. 

"I'm glad Joey's better," said Mrs. Powell, the 
visitor. "Minnie told me he was, but I didn't know, 
an' I thought this afternoon bein' cooler it'd be a 
good chance to come over and see. I haven't seemed 
to get any time before, I've been so busy." 

"Yes, he's better," said Mrs. Hewitt, rocking. 
"The doctor don't seem to think it could have 
been typhoid now. I just think he took a chill in 
swimmin', an' I've stuck to it all along. But you 
never know what anything like that may turn to, 
an' he seemed to think it was, anyway, an' he got 
me all worked up about it. I'm awful glad, because 
I've got a family from Wilmin'ton wants to come 
down, first week in August, an' I'd made up my mind 
I wouldn't be able to take 'em. But I can now, so 
long as Joey'll be all right again. Doctor Bain's 
dreadful fidgetty; he'll always give ever)rthing a long 



64 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

name, if he can. I wished I'd had Doctor Connolly 
in, from the first. I don't like him, but he's real 
clever. Only we've always had Doctor Bain, some- 
how, an' you don't like to change. He'd be ten 
minutes just takin' Joey's temperature, an' he used 
to get me nearly crazy. A regular old woman he is. 
I couldn't stand to have him fussin' round me if I 
was sick; he'd drive me wild. Thank goodness, I 
never am!" She laughed cheerfully. "I always say 
I've got too much to do to put in time bein' ill." 

Mrs. Powell took out a large hemstitched handker- 
chief and fanned herself with it. 

"Doctor Connolly's attendin' that young man over 
at Tasker's, ain't he?" 

"Yes. They called him up over the 'phone, an* he 
rode over on his motor-cycle through all that storm. 
I was just gettin' ready to shut the house up, an' I 
saw someone go past, an' I thought, 'There's Doctor 
Connolly.' I wondered where on earth he could be 
goin' to, out that way, an' I thought maybe it was 
Mrs. Hopkins, an' I didn't think it could be yet. I 
was awful puzzled. I never thought of Tasker's. 
Wasn't that the queerest thing, though ?" 

"The first night he came down, an' all." 

"And he was standin' on the porch here, seven 
o'clock that same evening, talkin' to me. He'd ridden 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 65 

down from Philadelphia — I told you, didn't I? — ^an' 
I couldn't take him. It was the very day the doctor'd 
got me all upset about the typhoid, an' I didn't know 
which way to turn, an' I fixed up for them to take 
him in there. It made me feel awful responsible 
when I heard about it. I had to apologise because 
I couldn't even ask him into the house, after him 
comin' all that way." 

"Did you know something about him?" asked 
Mrs. Powell. 

"Nothin' except that Mr. Bray sent him. You 
know Mr. Bray that was here boarding last summer? 
He told him about me, an' Mr. King wrote for a 
room a week before he came. I guess he'd been ill 
or something. He looked awful delicate. I noticed it, 
talkin' to him, an' that was one reason that made me 
so scared to have him in the house. He looked just 
ready to take anything that was going. Delicate 
folk do, much quicker'n strong ones. When I first 
saw him, I thought, 'I wouldn't have you come into 
a house where there's sickness, young man, for a 
hundred dollars!' An' that's what the doctor said 
about him too. He said it was nervous shock comin' 
on top of a delicate constitution, just as much as the 
hurt. He was unconscious two hours and a half, 
Mrs. Martin told me. Phemy Martin was in the 

F 



66 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

house when it happened. She was stayin' there out 
of the storm." 

"He broke his collar-bone, didn't he?" 

"Broke it to splinters." Mrs. Hewitt appeared to 
rock with positive appreciation. "It was the queerest 
thing how it ever happened. The dead limb off 
that old cherry tree round at the side broke in the 
storm an' fell on him. If it had hit his head square 
it'd have killed him on the spot." 

"What I want to know," said Mrs. Powell 
solemnly, "is what they was doin' out there under 
the cherry tree in a thunderstorm — ^that time of 
night." 

She paused, as on the brink of a conclusion too 
awful to be drawn and yet too precious to be 
ignored. Mrs. Hewitt smoothed out a crease in 
her skirt. 

"Oh, well," she said, "you know what Fan Tasker 
is. Like as not they just got to foolin' round. I 
don't believe myself that there's half the harm in 
Fan that folks say there is. She just does crazy 
things, an' she don't seem to know herself how crazy 
they are, half the times. I guess " 

"There's crazy things an' crazy things," said 
Mrs. Powell solidly, as one who draws a division. 
"An' there's judgments for doin' 'em, too, some- 
times," she pointedly added. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 6? 

Mrs. Hewitt looked uneasy. 

"I don't see anything in that," she said. "I don't 
see but what an old dead limb's liable to fall on 
anybody. Cherry trees are awful brittle anyway." 

"I don't say but what it mightn't. All I say is, 
what was they doin' for it to fall on 'em?" 

"Of course it was late. Fan's awful foolish, some 
ways. She don't seem to think of things. An' 
Tasker don't either. I blame most of it on Tasker. 
You'd think he would. But he's awful funny about 
her. He don't seem to care. It's a great pity. 
And — well, I don't like gossip as you know, but you 
know the way folks got to talkin' about him since 
Mrs. Tasker died. Of course they did before, but 
Fanny was younger then, an' it didn't matter so 
much. It don't seem the right sort of house for a 
girl to grow up in. She ought never to have come 
back here after she left school." 

"I never saw no good yet of lettin' a girl run wild 
the way Fan does," said Mrs. Powell, with a sort of 
resignation that was partly enjoyment, "an' I don't 
believe there ever will." 

Mrs. Hewitt looked at the flower-bed with her 
reflective, kindly gaze. 

"I've often said I wished Fan could go right away 
an' live with nice folks somewhere. It'd do her all 



/v^>■ ■.:■:,■ "vv-- 



68 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

the good In the world. They ought to have, re- 
lations, you'd think. I heard Mrs. Tasker's people 
were real nice; she ran away to get married. It's 
a pity Fan can't go an' stay with some of them. I 
said so last summer, when there was all that silly 
.talk." 

Mrs. Powell appeared to rear at the qualification 
"silly." She leaned back till her comfortable weight 
filled the rocker. 

"She writes to him still, don't she?" 

"I don't know. I guess so. She don't mail the 
letters at the office here, if she does." 

"H'm," said Mrs. Powell. 

"I never believed there was all that between them 
that folks said there was." 

"I guess there ain't smoke without some fire. If 
Fan Tasker don't want to get talked about she 
shouldn't do the things she does. I know I heard 
enough last summer to open my eyes." 

Mrs. Hewitt brought the conversation back wisely 
to its starting-point. 

"Mr. King's gettin' on all right, they say. He 
had a pretty narrow escape. I want to get over to 
see him ; I thought of goin' this evening, after we 
get through supper. I can't help feelin' as if I had 
something to do with it, for the life of me. An' he 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 69 

looked so bad. I hate to see a young fellow his age 
so slim. I'd worry about him awfully if he belonged 
to me. Fan's been nursin' him, right through." 

"I know," said Mrs. Powell. "And I don't think 
it's nice." 

"Someone had to. They could have got Mrs.. 
Goble, but I don't believe she'd be much account, 
an' she couldn't have stayed there all the time. Fan 
can be practical, if she once takes hold of things. 
Doctor Connolly said she'd fairly brought him round 
by the time he got there. I heard he was real 
pleased with the way she did, an' he's an awful 
brusque sort of man. I could never get on with 
him. They say he'd call you a fool as soon as look 
at you, if you didn't do what he thought right." 

"She don't know that about nursin'," said Mrs. 
Powell stolidly. 

"Maybe not. An)rway that's what he said. You 
know, I kinder like Fan," she added apologetically. 
"You can't help it somehow. She's queer, but she's 
awful good-hearted. I know when Bessy was sick 
last winter she'd come over here an' read to the 
child, day after day. She didn't mind what weather 
it was: she'd come right along with the snow up to 
her waist nearly. I tried talking to her a bit then. 
She seemed so nice, an' I thought it was a pity she 



70 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

shouldn't know the way people spoke. She didn't 
say anything, but I could tell she was gcttin' mad 
at me. She can be dreadful stand-offish, just like her 
father. So I let it go. She ain't been near the 
house much since. I don't think I've spoken to her 
for goin' on two months till the day I went over 
about Mr. King." 

"Do you suppose he'll stay on there now ?" 

"I don't know. I wouldn't wonder, if he can put 
up with the way things are run. I won't be able to 
take him in now, not if that Wilmington family 
comes. An' I don't believe he could afford it down 
at the beach anywhere. He said something about it, 
an' I supposed the way he said he hadn't got much 
money." 

"I wonder what he's payin' at Tasker's?" mused 
Mrs. Powell. "Tasker ain't the man to take folks in 
out of charity. I wouldn't be surprised if he was 
payin' six dollars a week. Mrs. Goble came to do 
washin' for me last Tuesday, an' she says he's got 
the front bedroom, that one over the side porch. An' 
there's that drummer's been stayin' there; he's only 
in at nights, an' he has one of the back rooms out 
over the wing, an' I know he pays three'n a half for 
that." 

Mrs. Hewitt smiled. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 71 

"Owes it, don't he?" 

"I guess Tasker gets it back on him over the 
drinks! Tasker's ain't much of a place to board." 

"I told him I guessed the cookin' wern't much. 
City folks are partic'lar, generally. Maybe it suits 
him. And that reminds me. Curzon Has taken over 
that new casino down by the beach; the one Hender- 
son lost money over last summer. Jim was tellin' me 
last night." 

"You don't say ? Wonder if he'll make it pay." 

"Jim was down there, an' he said they seemed 
pretty busy. He's put in two clerks an' a manager." 

"You'd have thought he had enough to do lookin' 
after the hotel !" 

And then the two good women fell to discussing 
the fortunes of the house of Curzon. 



VII 



THE young man who had aroused the solicitude 
of the neighbourhood lay in a hammock slung 
between two pine trees at the side of the hotel. The 
clearing was also in intent a garden ; there was grass 
and the inevitable flag-pole, white painted, and two 
halves of casks, painted also, and filled with earth 
and trailing plants. Beyond the grape trellis at the 
back of the house one could see a vegetable patch, 
rows of beans and neglected tomato vines over- 
running their stakes, and some dishevelled raspberry 
canes. A peach tree stood by itself in the middle of 
an asparagus-bed run to seed. 

The hammock was bleached by successive rains 
and sagged low, so that King could keep one foot on 
the ground as he lay in it. His left arm was in a 
sling still, but he had taken it out now to rest it 
stretched at his side. His other arm hung idly over 
the hammock-edge and he was staring up through 
the shifting network of branches at the blue sky. 
An attenuated black kitten sat in the hammock 
with him. 

72 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 73 

Fan sat cross-legged on the grass near by, studying 
the portraits of certain actresses which formed the 
popular feature of a ten-cent magazine. She had on 
a dark golf-skirt and a shirt-waist — ^phenomenally 
tidy for Fan — ^with a silk scarf knotted round the 
low turned-down collar, loosened to show a triangle 
of white straight throat. She nursed one ankle while 
she read, drawing it closer to her with little absent- 
minded hitches that gauged her absorption in the 
book. She took a profound and critical interest in 
pretty faces of her own sex. 

An antique buggy, drawn by a rusty horse with a 
green fly-net on, passed the house at a leisurely trot. 
Fan looked up from the magazine. 

"There's the mail gone by," she said. "He's late. 
I'll go down on the bicycle in a minute and see if 
there are any letters for you." 

"There won't be." 

"How do you know?" 

"For the reason that when I go away on a vacation 
I never give anyone my address. There ought to be 
a law against delivering letters in the summer. When 
you get a letter you have to answer it, unless you 
have the strength of mind to stack them aside un- 
opened. Would you mind taking Luke-and-John ? 
He's got his legs tangled." 

Fan reached out a hand from where she sat and 



74 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

extricated the black kitten from the hammock 
meshes. Luke-and-John hitched protesting claws 
into King's coat sleeve and cursed after the simple 
homely manner of his kind. 

"Luke-and-John's language is unscriptural/' Fan 
remarked, balancing the kitten on her knee. ''He 
will have to reform. Sit up, Luke, and don't look at 
your aunt like that. I resent it." 

"That kitten is impervious to grace," said King, 
watching it. He gave a push with his toe and set 
the hammock swinging. Fan turned. 

"You've worn that grass away till it looks like the 
back of Deacon Allan's head." 

"I'm so sorry!" He tried to see over the edge of 
the hammock and failed. "Is he real or a local 
figure of speech ?" 

"He is one of the pillars of our church. You'd 
get on with him; he has a strong sense of humour. 
Whenever any gypsies camp around here the deacon 
goes out in the dark of the moon chicken-stealing. 
He levels it up by praying for the gypsies in 
church, that they may be enlightened from their 
wickedness. There were some down here last summer 
— ^they camped back in the woods — and the Allans 
lived on chicken for nearly three weeks. The deacon 
explained that so long as the gypsies stole his 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 75 

chickens anyway, he 'lowed he might as well save the 
rest by eating them I" 

King laughed. "He must pray: 'Oh God, of thy 
bounty send us gypsies I' " 

"He believes in God helping those who help them- 
selves. Most of the people do, down here." She 
clasped her hands around her knees. "Between 
them they relieve the Lord of many minor responsi- 
bilities. Look. Someone coming up the road." 

A black-and-white dot was moving with brisk 
decision along the shady side of the road from the 
village. Fan watched with keen eyes. 

"Guess it's company for you, Mr. King." 

"I sincerely trust not I" 

He twisted round in the hammock to get a better 
view. "It's someone coming for beer," he suggested. 

"No. It isn't a beer walk. It's Mrs. Hewitt, I'll bet 
you what you like. She's come to see how you are." 

"Do you mind telling her I died last night?" 

"Certainly I won't. You'll have to see her. She'll 
cheer you up." Fan glanced at him maliciously. 
"I wonder she hasn't been over before. She'll be 
sure to ask you how you get along with the cooking, 
and whether we give you enough to eat. Don't tell 
her for heaven's sake we had chipped beef for supper 
four days last week." 

"I call two of the times ham." 



ye THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"Do. It sounds more respectable. And if she 
asks about chicken, we've had it twice since you 
came down." 

"What on earth " 

"I expect you'll get lots of callers now," Fan con- 
tinued calmly. "They'll want to find out whether 
Mrs. Coble's accounts are true." 

Mrs. Hewitt had reached the front porch, where 
she hesitated a moment. She caught sight of the 
hammock then, and came over the grass towards 
them, a brisk little figure in black-and-white lawn. 
Fan rose, holding Luke-and-John in hfer arms, and 
went forward to meet her. 

"How do you do, Mrs. Hewitt?" she said. "I 
was just saying it looked like you coming. Isn't it 
hot to-day ? I'll get you a chair out." 

She fetched a chair from somewhere adjacent, and 
set it down on the grass under the shadow of the 
pine. King had started to get up from the hammock, 
but Mrs. Hewitt stopped him. 

"Now, don't you move out of there," she said as 
she shook hands. "I ain't goin' to stay more than a 
minute, only I felt I'd just like to come over and see 
how you were gettin' along. I ought to apologise for 
comin' so late in the afternoon at all, but one thing 
happened an' then another, an' it didn't seem as if I'd 
ever get away from the house. I came through the 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 77 

woods, because it was shorter, but it was awful close 
comin' along, and the mosquitoes are dreadful. I 
wished I'd taken the road. You get a nice breeze 
here, don't you ? I suppose it comes across from the 
river." 

" It's a sea breeze to-day," said Fan. ' 

"Yes. We get it up our way a bit. More than 
here." 

She settled herself in the chair and turned to King. 
Fan sat down on the gras^ again, smoothing her skirt 
over her crossed ankles. A decorous solemnity 
settled upon the three of them. 

"So you're really better, Mr. King. I'm so glad. 
Not but what a shock like that seems to stay in the 
system a long time. I guess you feel shaky yet, 
don't you?" 

" Oh, I'm all right, thanks," he smiled. " It wasn't 
an3rthing really." 

"It was Gkxi's mercy you wasn't killed outright," 
said Mrs. Hewitt decisively. 

" I suppose it was luck ! But I'm pretty tough." 

Her eyes roved over the slight figure in the 
hammock in a way that seemed to confirm >her 
own opinions on the subject. 

"You don't show it much," she remarked grimly. 
" I guess you gave the folks up here a turn, anyway. 
It's a wonder you don't look worse than you do." 



78 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

" Miss Tasker has succeeded in preserving me a 
little while to this worthy planet," King murmured. 

Fan's teeth closed mutinously on the grass-stem 
she was biting. 

"I hear she's been a first class nurse," said Mrs. 
Hewitt genially. "Doctor Connolly will have to be 
givin' you a certificate for first aid, Fan." 

"It might take the form of a medal," said King, 
glancing at her, "inscribed for fortitude under de- 
pressing circumstances." 

Mrs. Hewitt laughed. 

" Well, I always say myself nursin's a knack," she 
said. "Some folks has it an' some hasn't. But wasn't 
it a dreadful storm though ? I guess it was the worst 
we've had this year. Dave Allan's house over by the 
inlet was struck. They were in bed, an' it tore all 
the lead gutter off one side of the roof. He was struck 
summer before last, an' he will stick to it yet his 
lightning-rods ain't wrong. I know I have ours 
seen to every year. It cost him nine dollars to get 
his gutter repaired. I always think folks that are 
careless deserve to have things happen to them." 

"Do you remember," said Fan conversationally, 
" the time the Methodist church was struck ? The 
old rods were taken down to be cleaned, and they 
quarrelled over who should put them up again. The 
committee thought the congregation ought to pay, 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 79 

and the congregation thought the committee ought 
to pay." 

"Come to think of it,*' mused King, "it's a 
quaint notion putting lightning-rods on a church at 
all. Don't you think so?" 

" I don't know," said Mrs. Hewitt, who was a 
member of the church in question. "It seems to 
me if you protect your own house you ought to 
protect the Lord's house too." 

The young man turned whimsical eyes upon her. 

"But do you think that's the point?" 

"Mr. King is greatly concerned about the faith- 
lessness of the present generation," said Fan, start- 
ing on a fresh piece of grass. "He considers light- 
ning-rods a reflection upon providence." 

"I don't know but what he's right," Mrs. Hew- 
itt agreed. " Then, again, I've heard other people 
say it's temptin' providence to leave 'em off. There's 
religion an' there's commonsense, and I guess the Lord 
likes both. He sends the thunderstorms along, but 
you can't expect Him to be watching every little 
place all the while to see where they're going to hit. 
There's lots of folks I know round here that's always 
ready to blame things off on the Lord that ain't nothing 
in the world but their own carelessness. There was 
Deacon White, used to live down here along the 
Oceanhouse road. He was alwstys talkin' about 



8o THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

trustin' in the Lord, an' he'd trust this an' he'd 
trust that, an' let things run anyhow, just because 
he was too shif'less to see after 'em; an' he left 
his hay out one year, just for nothin' but because 
he was too lazy to get it in when other folks did, an' 
the Lord ^ot tired an' showed him what He thought 
about it. The deacon was awful mad, too," she added 
reminiscently. 

King sat up in the hammock. He was beginning 
to like Mrs. Hewitt. 

"Tell me some more about the deacon?" he de- 
manded. 

Mrs. Hewitt smiled. 

"Well, I don't know that it matters, so long as he 
ain't livin' here any more. But they said that when- 
ever he had a grudge against anyone he used to get 
it off on 'em in church. I never heard him, but 
they said he was awful personal sometimes. An' 
one time he an' a neighbour of his, a man named 
Martin — not these Martins up here it wasn't, but an- 
other Martin ; he's dead now ; died of sunstroke — ^had a 
quarrel about a farm-waggon the deacon borrowed — he 
was always borrowin' — ^an' he prayed at evenin' service 
for those whose hearts were set only on the miserable 
pomps an' vanities of this world, to the exclusion of 
all heavenly grace. Everyone knew he meant Martin, 
an' Martin knelt there lookin' madder'n madder. And 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 8i 

when it came to his turn he prayed for those who, 
bein' too dose, O Lord, as Thou knowest, to keep 
pomps and vanities of their own, borrow from, their 
neighbours, an' return them with the backboard out 
and two bolts missing, which FlI thank him to pay 
for. The deacon was hoppin', an' that was the 
beginning of his goin' over to the Baptists. Some- 
how the deacon never could keep friends with any- 
one; he was always scrapping!" 

Fan had not troubled herself to uphold the con- 
versation much. She sat chewing grass-blades non- 
chalantly. Nevertheless there was in her manner a 
dignity that carried King back amusedly to his first 
evening in the house. She rose at last, with an 
air of suddenly remembering something, and went 
indoors. When she had gone Mrs. Hewitt ap- 
peared to settle herself with more comfort. 

"And how do you like Matehocken, Mr. King?" 
she began. 

"Oh, delightful! I haven't seen very much of 
the place yet. But I like all this." 

The gesture of his hand took in the pine woods, 
the sunshine, the rustling tree-shadows on the grass. 

"The pines are nice," said Mrs. Hewitt reflec- 
tively. "They say the smell of 'em's healthy too. 
It always seems to me it must be close, livin' right in 

G 



82 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

among 'em. I like lots of air. An' the/re bad for mos- 
quitoes too. I suppose you get a lot of 'em here?" 

"A good many. They haven't struck me as very 
bad." 

"They're dreadful once they get in the house. An' 
they work in everywhere, unless you have all the 
screens sound. It don't seem as if you can keep 'em 
out. Do they keep you awake at night any?" 

"Oh, I don't think I've noticed them." 

He did not mention that he had spent blasphemous 
moments repairing the cotton gauze at his bedroom 
window with stamp-paper. 

"Well, maybe they ain't so bad this year as some 
years. It's when the breeze comes off the bay it brings 
'em worse; they're so thick sometimes back in the 
woods you can't hardly stir for 'em." She paused 
a moment, while her eyes swept the upper windows 
of the house shrewdly. "Do you make out with 
the cookin' all right?" 

"Splendidly, thanks." 

Remembering Fan's injunction about the chipped 
beef, he braced himself warily. 

Mrs. Hewitt looked relieved. 

"That's good," she said. "I always feel kind of 
responsible about recommendin' anyone an)rwhere, 
in case it don't turn out what they thought. There was 
some people came to me last summer, when I had my 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 83 

house full, an' I sent 'em over to Stillwell's, on the 
river, an' it did seem as if they couldn't find enough 
fault with the way things was there. They said 
they didn't give them nothing for supper but chipped 
beef night after night. Chipped beef is handy, an' I 
suppose when Mrs. Stillwell ran out of everything 
she'd give *em that, but I know they said they got so 
sick they hated the very name of it." 

"I don't wonder," said King. 

"Yes. An' it used to make me feel as if I'd had the 
doin* of it. But I think when folks go away for 
the summer they do want to have their meals re- 
Uable." 

"Of course." 

"It makes such a difference. Still, when you go 
away, you can't have things just the same as you 
would at a city hotel. I guess you've found that 
out?" 

"If you could," said King evasively. "There 
wouldn't be any sense in going away, would there?" 

She glanced at him mistrustfully, but he was 
staring up through the pine-boughs at the sky. 

"I suppose you'll be stayin' on for a while, so long as 
you're comfortable?" she said after a pause. 

"I expect so." 

"Lots of folks like it better here than down at the 
beach; it is so much quieter. I've often wondered 



84 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

someone don't start a real nice hotel out this end 
of the town. It ought to pay. I guess Tasker 
could do a lot more with this place, if he liked. But 
he's queer. . . . How do you get on with him ?" 

"Oh, I like him," said King. "What Fve seen of 
him. He's a charming man to talk to." 

"He can be good company, when he likes. He's out 
a lot of the time, isn't he ?" 

"He seems pretty busy always." 

They relapsed into talk of Matehocken and its sum- 
mer attractions, and after a little while Mrs. Hewitt 
rose to go, reluctantly, as one whose mission was only 
half accomplished. 

"Well, I'm glad you're better," she said again as she 
shook hands. "And I'm glad you like the place all 
right I've felt I'd like to know, seein' I sent you 
here. Just thinkin' of it reminds me. I saw Mrs. 
Cole, whose sister has the 'Granville,' down by the 
beach, an' they're only chargin' six dollars for board 
there. It's a real nice house." 

King, lounging back in the hammock again, watched 
her retreating figure through quizzical half-closed 
eyes. Phemy advanced to him across the lawn, 
clad in the blue muslin of the thunderstorm, freshly 
starched and ironed. The breeze teased the ruffles 
of it, and loosened the smooth yellow hair across 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 85 

her forehead. She tucked a stray lock behind her 
ear, screwing her eyes to meet the sun that struck 
level between the pine-trunks. 

"Do you know," said King, transferring his gaze 
to her, "that wrinkles have distressing effects upon the 
most charming countenance?" 

Phemy giggled, but she unscrewed her face never- 
theless. She suspected King of an abiding unserious- 
ness. Whenever he looked at her there stirred in her 
mind uneasily the recollection that she had once told 
Fan he was ugly. She assumed now the pert in- 
difference to which she always clung as a ground 
of safety. 

"Fan sent to tell you supper'd been ready twenty 
minutes, an' she'd like to know whether you're com- 
ing in or not?" 

"Thank you." 

He extricated himself meekly from the hammock 
and went indoors. There was a pervasive smell 
of coffee and fried ham. Fan stood at the dining- 
room window eating an apple. 

"I wondered whether you were coming in," she 
remarked. 

Supper was laid. The table appointments pre- 
sented somewhat more scheme than on the night 
of his arrival; the same china bowl stood in the 



86 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

middle, filled with sweetpeas. King fetched a chair 
with his free hand and sat down. 

"Your social methods," he said, "strike me as im- 
pressionistic." 

"What do you mean?" 

"Why did you go off like that and leave that 
excellent lady and myself to our own devices?" 

Fan bit into her apple viciously. "She didn't 
come to see me. She came to find out how much 
we were doing you over board." 

King smiled. 

"I didn't betray you." 

She came over to the table and began to pour 
out coffee. 

"Did she ask you how much you paid?" 

"Not quite." 

"You bet she knows then!" She filled their two 
cups and sat staring at them moodily, her chin on 
her hand. "Mrs. Goble probably told her." She 
roused herself and handed his cup across, pushing 
the sugar-bowl after it. "Did she ask if we gave 
you ice-cream for dinner on Simdays?" 

"No." 

"Then Mrs. Goble told her that too," said Fan. 



VIII 

IN spite of Fan's predictions, Mrs. Hewitt was 
the only caller who invaded the Cedars Hotel 
on Eong's behalf. Nevertheless it was made ap- 
parent, when he regained freedom to walk abroad, 
that the entire village knew him intimately. People 
of whose existence he was ignorant nodded in pass- 
ing, or stopped on the road to ask how he was, 
and whether he liked it up at Tasker's. It seemed 
that his accident had raised him to a pinnacle of im- 
portance in the local interest. The postmaster, on 
the first morning when he called at the store for 
his mail, greeted him genially, and 'lowed he was the 
young man that give 'em such an eternal scare up here 
a while back. He also inquired, rummaging slowly 
through the pigeon-holes behind the counter, wheth- 
er it was true that Tasker was advertising in the 
city papers for a bar-tender, and that he won forty 
dollars from that drummer chap over poker, and 
then turned him out because he couldn't pay his 
board. The postmaster, being handicapped by a 

8Z 



88 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

natural straightforwardness, was easier to deal with 
than a certain old lady who lived half-way between 
the hotel and the store, who, out pottering about 
her front garden one afternoon in a brown sun-bonnet, 
involved King guilelessly in conversation across the 
fence. She began with solicitude for his bandaged 
arm, and proceeding by delicate steps, managed to en- 
tangle him in a web of cross-examination as to 
his position at Tasker's and the domestic economy 
of the hotel. She seemed to be under the delusion 
that he was working for his board. King held his 
ground as long as he could, but had to escape her 
curiosity at last by precipitate flight. He wondered 
afterwards why she didn't ask him about his bank 
account. His amusement would have been less serene 
had he known that Mrs. Goble had already gauged 
his finances by the extent of his laundry, and pub- 
lished her conclusions for the edification of the 
village. 

He learned thereafter to meet all inquiries with 
a wary cordiality which earned for him the reputation 
of being "dreadful stand-offish." He gathered that 
they were inspired less by interest in himself than 
by the desire to penetrate, through the medium of the 
stranger within the gates, the private workings of the 
Tasker household. He had discovered already that 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 89 

between Tasker's and the rest of the village there 
existed a distinct social gulf, almost an antagonism. 
On which side it originated he was unable to make 
out, but he imagined that Tasker possessed many 
and devious ways of making himself disliked. Fan 
held small intercourse with her neighbours, and was 
certainly at no pains to ingratiate herself with them. 
All the same she appeared to have their histories 
at her finger-tips. To King she ridiculed their 
failings, their idiosyncrasies, their religion; ran them 
down on every occasion with a flippant, ruthless 
intolerance which was the only thing he disliked in 
her. 

He thought it was a pity that, living amongst 
these people all the year round, she should not at 
least make the best of them. They seemed to him, 
on such acquaintance as he had with them, simple 
kindly folk enough, with no great faults save such 
as arose naturally from their too narrow, monoto- 
nous existence. They were respectable common- 
place people, living respectable commonplace lives, 
with small meannesses fostered by environment; 
but that was no reason why, in looking at them, 
one should see only the meanness, the narrowness. 
Fan, with the hard intolerance of youth, saw noth- 
ing else, and her bitterness seemed to him un- 
natural and disproportionate. 



90 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

Mrs. Hewitt appeared to have taken from the first 
an interest in King which she did not relinquish as 
time went on. She never came to the hotel again, but 
several times, riding down to the village on his 
wheel, he stopped at her house for a few minutes' 
chat. He liked her better than anyone else about. 
She was always brisk and cheery and smiling, never 
too busy, amid the cares of a houseful of board- 
ers, to have a welcome for him at whatever time he 
turned up. It was a standing joke between the two* 
that she still owed him the cup of coffee he didn't 
have on his first evening in Matehocken, and she 
would never allow that many subsequent payments 
had levelled the debt. 

He wondered why Fan didn't get on with her 
better. The dislike, if it amounted to that, was 
wholly on the girl's side. Mrs. Hewitt never spoke 
of her in other than the kindliest terms. He even 
fancied, sometimes, that she was a little hurt at 
Fan's coolness and would have been glad, had she 
shown less marked independence, to have been a 
good friend to her. But Fan inherited many of 
her father's characteristics. She could make her- 
self, when she chose, distinctly unapproachable. If 
she didn't care for people she took no trouble to 
be friendly to them. It was scarcely the way to 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 91 

make the best of a position which struck King at 
times as being rather lonely for a girl of her age and 
nature. She seemed to him to miss voluntarily a great 
deal that might have gone to make her life pleasanter, 
and in the case of Mrs. Hewitt particularly he thought 
that she carried her aloofness too far. 

The July days passed for King, on the whole, very 
pleasantly. He liked the place, partly because its in- 
conveniences allowed him certain freedoms which he 
might not have foimd in other houses. He was not a 
man to adapt himself readily to either the restrictions 
or the advantages of the average shoreside boarding- 
house. He disliked strangers at any time, and one of 
the effects of his illness had been to quicken in 
him a nervous diffidence that outsiders took some- 
times for misanthropy. His courtesy towards his 
fellow-creatures never extended to permitting him- 
self to be bored by them. Here there was no oc- 
casion to sit up in his bedroom half the day to 
avoid the kind of people to whom he would be un- 
failingly charming if he met them on the stairs. 
He felt himself less a boarder than a guest in a 
household whose irregularities never troubled him. 

Of Tasker he saw very little. He was a tall, 
rather handsome man of some fifty years, loosely built, 
with blue inscrutable eyes, grizzled hair always more or 



92 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

less disorderly, and a yellow moustache. In appearance, 
with his fine carelessness of dress, trousers tucked 
into high boots, a soft felt hat, and a shirt that 
set easily over powerful shoulders, he suggested 
strongly the typical bar-tender of some remote 
Western town. He brought to mind Bret Harte and 
his tales of mining days. To King's thinking he 
only wanted a revolver in his belt to make him ar- 
tistically perfect. He was genial, but never very 
talkative; unvaryingly courteous at such times as 
King met him, with a refined dignity of bearing 
that was in odd contrast to his roughness of ap- 
pearance. He had a Jersey dryness of hiunour, 
and not a little of Jersey closeness over business 
transactions. King gathered that he could be, when 
his occasional ill-humour had sway, a rather dec- 
orative blackguard. He accepted in any case Mrs. 
Hewitt's opinion that Tasker was not the sort of man 
one would care to quarrel with. 

He spent his evenings always in the bar, which was 
a gathering place for local gossip, and for the 
discussion of politics. Occasionally King, sitting 
out on the side porch in the evening, would hear 
his voice raised high in steady argument. The 
sharp clang of the cash-register sounded at fre- 
quent intervals, and there were bursts of laughter 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 93 

that had a sharp and not always kindly edge. Some- 
times the gramophone was set going, in shrill cheerful 
vibration of some comic song, or a selection of popular 
music. There was seldom any sound of quarrelling; 
he concluded that Tasker ruled the saloon, on occasion, 
with a heavy hand. 

That he drank, and drank heavily, there was no 
doubt, but King never saw him drunk about the house. 
He seemed to succeed in keeping one side of his 
character for his customers and another for his 
household. Mrs. Goble, on the days when she came 
to work, displayed toward him the deference she 
would have shown to the devil in earthly guise. 
Her hymn-tunes wavered into a cowed aggressive 
silence when Tasker walked across the entry. 

The house appeared to a great extent to "run 
itself," as Mrs. Hewitt had said. There were meals 
at approximately regular times. Sometimes Tasker 
came in to them, more often the table was set only 
for two. Phemy came over and helped with the 
housework every day. She was more competent 
than Fan, but the combined competence of the house- 
hold reached no great level. It was always more 
or less of a problem to King how anything got 
done at all. When Mrs. Goble came, once a week, 
the place reeked virtuously of wet boards and soap- 



94 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

suds, and chloride of lime, and he was continually 
falling over pails left on the staircase. Mrs. Goble 
cleaned with a godly ardour, her sleeves rolled up 
and her brown skinny hands wielding scrubbing-brush 
and duster as though she were effacing stains from 
her neighbours' souls. She cooked and served the 
dinner on these days, and the steak came in with 
a strong flavour of scouring-soap. 

King had experience, as time went on, of what 
Mrs. Hewitt had in mind when she said that Fan 
was queer. Ordinarily she would be a good com- 
panion enough; their friendship was based upon 
mutual dislikes and S3mipathies which had flashed 
to light in the first hour of their acquaintance, and 
a tacit avoidance of intimacy. Her companionship 
was to him almost like the companionship of 
another man. The sat out on the porch in the 
evening and talked, while King smoked to keep the 
mosquitoes off. Sometimes Tasker joined them, 
lounging against the porch-rail in the intervals of 
business. In the afternoons they went for walks, 
in the pine woods or down the shore to the river-bank, 
half a mile from the house. Tasker kept two horses, a 
veteran named Duke, with a contemptuous Roman nose 
and many fixed prejudices, and a smart bay mare which 
he drove himself. Often in the cool of the evening they 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 95 

took Duke and the buckboard and drove down to the 
beach, or along one or other of the country roads. 

In other moods she would leave him brusquely to 
his own resources. There were days when he scarcely 
saw her. She would sit through meal-times in a 
bored silence, scarcely speaking except to ask whether 
he was ready for more coffee; absent herself from 
the house for hours at a stretch, and his only in- 
timation of her return would be the distant wandering 
glimmer of her white blouse through the dusk of the 
pines. She would come home tired from long solitary 
walks, her hair braided down her back — ^always a sign 
of unsociability — say good night to him yawningly at 
eight o'clock, and go up to bed. 

Sometimes she suffered from excesses of domestic 
virtue. For three days at a stretch meals would be 
punctual to the minute; entry and dining-room 
swept twice a day, and everything reduced to com- 
fortless tidiness. She went about, duster in hand, 
setting chairs straight and picking up papers; tidied 
the mantelshelf, usually a chaos; threw out all 
the flowers in the vases and gathered fresh ones. 
On one of these days King came upon her in the 
parlour, a little square room opening from the side 
entry, seldom used, where chintz-covered chairs resided > 
in a religious twilight. She had Opened all the win* 



96 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

dows and the sunshine came in with pleasant home-like 
effect upon the rag carpet, the shabby cottage piano 
standing back against the wall, polished angles of fur- 
niture, and some old china, delicate pink-and-gold, set 
on the inevitable "whatnot" of a country parlour. Over 
the fireplace hung an impressionist oil-sketch of the 
river, in a dull gold frame. The vivid note of it caught 
King's eye as he paused in the doorway. 

"Who did that?" he said. 

Fan straightened her shoulders, leaning on the car- 
pet-sweeper. 

"An artist who was down here last year. Do you 
like it?" she asked after a moment. 

"No," he said. "It's wonderfully clever. I don't 
like the man's attitude." 

"To what?" 

"Well, to himself, chiefly. To the universe, if you 
like. It's the same thing." He sat down on an arm 
of one of the chairs. "Painting's such a betrayer. A 
man can write a book — a dozen if he likes — and say 
nothing about himself at all. But when he paints a 
picture it's all got to come out ; he can't help it. The 
man that did that wasn't perfectly honest with 
himself." 

Fan's mouth straightened. 

"He happened to be rather more honest than most 
people." 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 97 

"Most people don't count. We were speaking of 
artists. The man who could do that could do a good 
deal better and he knew it. There was something he 
missed — something he hadn't got. I should say he 
was rather . . . one-sided. That picture seems 
to me the determination to justify an artificial at- 
titude." 

Fan smiled resentfully. 

"Conservatives usually say that of impressionism." 

"Not of true impressionism." 

"Do you know you're feeling ugly this morning?" 

"I'm sorry. It's the effect of all this tidiness." 
He glanced round him in a deprecating way. "Too 
much sweeping and garnishing is bad for the soul." 

She picked up some music folios and put them back 
on the piano. 

"Why don't you take a book and sit out in the 
woods ?" 

"Is that a panacea for moral ugliness?" He rose 
and felt through his pockets. "If you'll tell me 
where I put my pipe to when you turned the room 
upside down after breakfast I'll try it." 

"It's on the mantelshelf," said Fan. 

He found it behind the clock, and wandered out, 
but got no further than the porch. The air was still 
and sultry, filled with the shrill monotonous rasping 

H 



98 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

of insects, that rose and fell in orchestral rh3^ni from 
the weeds in the sun-steeped clearing. He found 
a shady comer and sat down with his back against 
the wall of the house. A wasp was building a mud 
nest on one of the porch beams. While he smoked, 
King watched it journeying backward and for- 
ward between the beam and the outside summer 
world, its poised wings glistening in the sunlight, 
as anxiously responsible as a master-mason over 
the foundation of a cathedral. 

Presently a black-covered waggon, drawn by a 
decrepit roan horse, came up the road and turned 
in at the side of the house. The reins were hung 
to a hook over the driving-seat, and the horse ap- 
parently guided itself, picking a reflective way across 
the sand, the waggon jolting behind. The harness 
was old, and seemed to hold together by some 
law of nature, assisted at critical points by bits of 
rope. On the side of the waggon, painted in white 
letters, was the inscription: "Jacob Rose. Pur- 
veyor of Fish and Oysters. Families and Hotels 
Supplied." 

King had time to decipher this legend while the 
roan horse was toiling slowly past the end of the 
porch, appearing to maintain its progress through 
sheer inertia until a voice from the interior of the 
waggon yelled suddenly : 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 99 

''Ho, dem ye!" 

The horse stopped, and turning its head regarded 
King for a moment attentively out of a bleared 
uncanny eye, after which it relapsed into a coma- 
tose condition. There was some fumbling inside 
the waggon, and a man climbed out over the wheel. 
He wore indescribably ancient trousers and a fisher- 
man's blue jersey, and had small gold rings in his ears. 
He had the straight erect build of a man of forty. 
His face, when he turned, was infinitely old, 
seamed and wrinkled and ta,nned to a deep ma- 
hogany, but his blue eyes seemed to hold a malig- 
nant secret of perpetual youth, and his hair and 
beard were thick and curly and of a bright un- 
grizzled chestnut. He reached the ground unhurriedly, 
and nodded to King with a sharp jerk of the head. 

"Momin*. Mis' Tasker wantin* any fish to-day?" 

King removed the pipe from his mouth, and re- 
turned his greeting. 

"Fm afraid I couldn't say." 

"You kin tell 'er I got some right nice blue-fish !" 

"Don't you think," King suggested, eyeing him in- 
curiously, "that it would be as well if you went 
roimd and told her yourself?" 

"Boarder, ain't ye?" said Jacob, in a commen- 
tary tone. He went round to the end of the waggon, 



% r M" I 



\ iVVli^VV^ 



100 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

where water, dripping between the backboards, made 
a little pool in the sand. 

"Something of that nature." 

"I was thinkin' I'd seed you before." 

"Oh, most probably," said King. "I frequent the 
public squares when the municipal band plays. Is your 
horse addicted to the morphia habit?" he asked, 
replacing his pipe between his teeth as he studied 
the uncanny beast with interest. 

Jakey, fumbling in the back of the waggon, pre- 
sented to view a stolid square of blue jersey. 

"Nope!" 

"Perhaps he is merely in the ecstatic mood. He 
has wrought himself up by prayer and meditation. 
Here comes Miss Tasker now," King added, turning 
his head. 

Fan appeared from the sidedoor. "Good morning, 
Jakey," she said. 

Jacob acknowledged her presence with a grunt, 
and she went round to the back of the waggon, whence 
there ensued a long colloquy, accompanied by jingling 
of scales. Jakey was of a deliberate nature, and it 
seemed to cost him a personal wrench to part with 
any of his fish at all. He handled them as if they 
were bars of gold. The prehistoric animal between 
the shafts unfastened one eye again, and King 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH loi 

was reminded unpleasantly of the horse in the poem 
of Childe Rolande. Ancient sins seemed to buzz like 
flies about this steed's head also. 

It was twenty minutes before Jakey finally climbed 
back into the waggon, turned it round with melancholy 
screeching of the wheels, and set oflf up the road 
again. King watched the departing vehicle breath- 
lessly. He was hoping to see it come to* pieces 
before it reached the turn by Mrs. Martin's cot- 
tage. But it trundled intact out of sight, and he 
turned to see Fan standing on the porch beside him. 
"It's perfectly secure," she said. "You needn't 
look alarmed." 
"I'm glad." 

"How old do you think Jakey is?" 
"Fifty?" he hazarded. 

"Seventy-nine. But he's been as old as that ever 
since one can remember. He's a survival from the 
days of the patriarchs. If you came back a hun- 
dred and fifty years from now you'd find Jakey going 
the same rounds, in the same patched jersey, telling the 
same lies. He's watched everyone in the place grow up 
and there isn't a thing about them he doesn't know. 
He's got 'em all down fine. If the least little 
thing happens in the village Jakey knows it, if 
he was twenty miles off when it happened. He's the 



102 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

worst old scandalmonger in the county, and he*s 
got everyone so scared of him they dam't turn 
round. I believe a hundred years ago they'd have 
offered propitiatory sacrifices to him. I'm not sure 
some of them don't now. You should hear Mrs. 
Goble about Jakey! She swears he's got the evil- 
eye." 

"I thought his horse had," said King. "The gaze 
of that venerable beast made my blood run cold." 

"The horse is nearly as old as Jakey. They say he's 
hypnotised it, and that's why it holds together so 
long. I guess if he was to take the spell off you'd hear 
all its bones drop apart! The legends of Jakey 
would fill a book. He bought that horse off Joe 
Meakins for twelve dollars, because Joe had given 
it up, and that's seventeen years ago. Dad can tell 
you. We had a coloured man working here once, 
and he always carried a rabbit's foot against Jakey." 

She moved away towards the entry door, and 
King laughed. 

"Do you believe in the evil-eye ?" 

Fan paused with her hand on the screen-door. 

"I do when it's Jakey's," she said. 



IX 



"npHEY'RE out drivin' nearly every evenin'," 

X said Mrs. Powell. "I see 'em go past the 
house here. Th* other evenin' they had that brown 
horse of Tasker's out, an' it just kited past. I 
wonder the old man let's her take it out. Fan's 
an awul reckless driver. He refused ninety dol- 
lars for it this spring, I heard, and she drives it 
round as if it was a cart-horse." 

"Jim Wright says he'd rather trust Fan with a 
horse than anyone in the village." 

"Jim likes her because Fan'll go there an' sit 
round in the forge talkin' to him. She's got all 
around Jim. He mended the buggy-tree for her 
that time she broke it comin' down Seven Hill and 
never let on a word. An' to see her drive past 
now with her chin in the air you'd think she'd never 
spoke to a blacksmith in her life !" 

Mrs. Powell and her sister sat opposite to each 
other on the back porch of Mrs. Powell's house 
shelling beans. Their knees nearly touched, and 

103 



104 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

the big dish-pan, filled with beans, was balanced 
across them. Each had her apron piled high with 
the empty pods. Mrs. Powell kept pressing them 
down as she talked. She worked quicker than her 
sister, and her heap of pods was nearly twice as 
high. 

The sister, Mrs. Lyons, was a thin delicate woman, 
who looked older than her age, of a faded prettiness 
that was in direct contrast to Mrs. Powell's solidity. 
She was slightly deaf, and spoke hesitatingly in 
consequence ; her voice had a clear questioning sweet- 
ness, not unlike a child's. Because she accepted mis- 
fortune without grumbling, looked out on her some- 
what hard life with blue, pathetically hopeful eyes, 
she had acquired in the village a reputation for 
"settin' down under things." Her husband had been 
ill for over a year. He worked on a baggage-train 
that ran between Matehocken and New York, and 
had injured himself internally by lifting heavy weights. 
When Mrs. Powell had her house full of boarders 
in the summer her sister used to go over and 
help her with the work. Mrs. Powell believed 
herself very good to Louisa. She was; but it was 
in a heavy-handed, domineering way that lessened 
the value of the kindness. 

Mrs. Lyons was the only woman in the village 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 105 

that Fan really liked. As a child she had run in 
and out of Mrs. Lyons* house, which stood midway be- 
tween her own home and the schoolhouse, and those 
visits were always associated with cookies and tumblers 
of home-made root beer. Mrs. Lyons had taken her 
part in childish escapades. When Fan, six years old 
and chafing at the injustice of needlework on a sum^ 
mer afternoon, had marched off with a view of 
pursuing the simple life in the pine woods, it was 
Tom Lyons who had found and brought her home, 
scratched and sleepy, and dyed with the stain of 
huckleberries. She had bitten Lyons when he picked 
her up; years after he would embarrass her by dis- 
playing an old scar on his wrist, which he declared to 
be the abiding imprint of Fan's teeth. "J^st hung on 
like a little dawg," he used to say. 

Later, the attitude of friendship was reversed. 
Mrs. Lyons, once the prettiest bride in Matehocken, 
faded by slow degrees of ill-health into the quiet 
resigned woman who had lost the respect of the 
village through a disinclination to stand up against 
circumstance. Her deafness, too, shut her out from 
contact with all but her nearest neighbours. Fan, shot 
up into a tall, healthy young hoyden, used to swoop 
down upon the frail little woman and take her out by 
force for drives. She came over to see her, brought 



io6 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

her books and magazines, always in a more or less 
haphazard way; but the girl's chance visits, her 
outdoor health and reckless chatter, used to brighten 
the over-quiet house as nothing else did. With 
her, Fan was never at the usual pains to show her 
worst side. This quiet, gentle woman, made sensi- 
tive too perhaps by her affliction, came nearer 
to understanding her than anyone in the village. 
Possibly she saw in Fan's intolerances some shadow 
of her own youth, recognised in the recklessness 
which drove the girl into escapades that the village 
denounced as crazy merely the reaction of imchecked 
youth against the narrow monotony of her surround- 
ings. She viewed it in a less practical light than 
Mrs. Hewitt, trusting everything to a vague con- 
viction that when Fan married she would "settle 
down." She had cherished that hope, a kindly 
interest at the back of her mind, during the three 
years that had elapsed since Fan returned, to all 
intents a grown-up young woman, from the school 
at Orange to which Tasker had sent her at her 
mother's death. It rose, unadmitted, to fresh defi- 
nition each time that she watched Fan drive past in 
the buckboard with the red-haired young man from 
the city. Her thoughts ran to romance as naturally 
as a plant to flower; love had brought enough of good 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 107 

into own life for her to wish it whole-heartedly 
to others. He was not the looking man she would have 
chosen for Fan, but she admitted Fan's right to have 
her own ideas. 

As she shelled the beans now, slowly, into the 
dish-pan that rested half on her knees, half on her 
sister's, she said — 

"I saw Fan down in the drug-store with him yes- 
terday, when I was gettin' Tom's medicine made 
up. They came in for soda-water. I thought Fan 
was lookin' real pretty. She had her hair put up, 
with a bow, like all the girls are wearin' it now." 

"Yes. I notice she has." 

Mrs. Powell's tone all but implied a sinister mo- 
tive in the alteration of Fan's hair. It was wasted 
upon her sister. 

"I like to see a young girl take trouble about the 
way she looks. It don't seem natural not to. Fan 
usen't to care much what she wore, but I'm glad 
she's growin' out of it. She looks real nice when 
she takes trouble to." 

"I thought she'd been fixin' up considerable, each 
time I've seen her lately." 

It was in Mrs. Lyons' mind to say, "I wish 
that fellow would take to Fan." But something in 
ber sister's face as she sat opposite, grimly hulling 



io8 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

beans with strong, quick fingers, made her feel that 
the words would be a g^ossness. Somehow her sister 
often had that effect upon her; it was the conscious- 
ness of a curious gulf in their sympathies. Suffer- 
ing had given Mrs. Lyons a certain refinement, 
almost a spirituality, acting upon her mind as it 
acted upon her body. She had always been rather 
different to Mrs. Powell, and of late years the differ- 
ence had become so marked that it was in effect a 
division. 

Two days later Fan herself came round to Mrs. 
Lyons' house. It was over three weeks since she had 
last called. Mrs. Lyons was in the kitchen making 
biscuit for supper. Fan caught sight of her across 
the front entry and came through. She had a bunch 
of magnolia buds in her hand. 

"I brought you these over," she said. "We got 
a lot over the other side of the river by Joe Meakins'. 
They'll come out in water." 

She sat down on one of the wooden chairs for a 
while and talked, watching Mrs. Lyons as she stood 
at the table, cutting out the dough into neat circular 
bites with an empty baking-powder can. The 
kitchen was on a line with the front door, and a 
pleasant summer draught came through the rocrni, 
which was warm from the heat of the stove. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 109 

Mrs. Lyons' gaze rested presently on the white 
lawn shirt-waist Fan was wearing. 

"That's a real pretty waist you've got on, Fan," she 
said in her gentle questioning voice. "It's new, ain't 
it ? I like all those little fine tucks." 

Fan's hand moved instinctively to the front of the 
blouse. 

"Do you like it? I got the stuff at Reinbach's, 
twelve and a half cents. I made it all in two even- 
ings." 

Mrs. Lyons smiled and nodded. She seldom caught 
all that anyone said. 

"I should think those tucks were a lot of work 
to do." 

"They didn't take so long. I did them on the 
machine." After a moment, she added apologetically : 
"Most of my last year's waists are worn out any- 
way." 

It was not until the girl rose to go and Mrs. Lyons 
was shutting the oven door upon the last tray of 
biscuit, that she said: 

"How do you make out with the new boarder. 
Fan?" 

Fan paused, leaning against the door-frame. 

"We get along all right, I guess." 

"It's nice for you to have some company in the 



no THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

house," said Mrs. Lyons. "So long as it's someone 
that's nice." 

A little tinge of colour ran under Fan's skin, deep- 
ening the tan. 

"Oh, we don't quarrel," she said. "I guess he goes 
his way, most of the time, and we go ours. . . . Mr. 
King is quite an exemplary boarder," she added, 
smiling. "He eats what is guv him and makes no 
remarks." 

Mrs. Lyons nodded again, in her conversational 
way that was not unlike that of some sober flower 
nodding in the breeze. 

"Well, I'm glad," she said, "It's someone for you 
to talk to. I think it's real dull not to have new faces 
once in a while." 

Mrs. Lyons' was the second house from the little 
general store and post ofiice, going to Matehocken. 
It was threequarters of a mile by road from the 
Cedars Hotel, but there was a back way through the 
pine woods, cutting off a corner of unfenced pasture 
and some building lots where new summer cottages 
were being put up, little wide-porched bungalows built 
fancifully of shingled pine. 

Fan went out through the side yard, bright with 
phlox and petunias, and the bed of day-lilies that 
overflowed between the whitewashed pickets of the 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH ill 

fence, and struck across diagonally to the left. The 
pasture land over which she walked was weed-grown 
and sandy, covered with blackberry brambles that 
made tangled snares for the foot. Here and there 
were conical shoots of pine and cedar, the last 
dwindling descendants of the forest that still con- 
tended jealously year by year its ancient foothold. 
The tiny cedars, sturdy, defiant, were like truant 
Christmas-trees strewn about. Beach-plum bushes 
grew in low clumps, their twisted branches, where the 
fruit was turning already to bluish-red, bearded with 
grey ragged moss. A cow, tethered to a stake, grazed 
patiently, moving slowly forward with dragging feet 
among the weeds and brambles. Everywhere hawk- 
weed flamed, raw gold in the afternoon sunlight, and 
the air was alive with the shrilling of crickets. 

Fan reached the edge of the woods and sat down 
under an outpost pine to rest. A warm haze basked 
over the pasture she had crossed, and the shingles on 
the new cottages seemed to dance and twinkle. Men 
were at work on the last one, and the leisured sound 
of hammers came restfully on the summer air. The 
tall ailanthus trees in the road before Mrs. Lyons' 
house barely stirred. It was so still that she could 
hear the clank of coupling chains where they were 
shunting cars at the depot. Later, an engine shrieked. 



112 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

and a faint grey wisp of smoke rose in the distance. 
It was the five-twenty from Philadelphia. 

She wondered whether anyone had called for the 
mail, and whether Phemy would think to have the 
egg-plant for supper sliced by the time she got back. 
She had half promised Phemy to go bathing this 
afternoon, but it would be too late now, and she was 
comfortable where she was. Once or twice lately 
Fan's conscience had reproached her with neglecting 
Phemy. At one time they had been very much 
together, and the reaction had come, since King's 
establishment in the house, as a gradual drifting 
apart that was quite as much upon Phemy's side 
as her own. The girl had seemed different the last 
few weeks. She had taken to grumbling about the 
house-work; had moods when she went through her 
tasks in a half resentful, inattentive way; complained 
about the heat and headaches; and yet was always 
ready to slur the final dish-washing, in order that she 
could hurry home to go out in the evenings. Her 
chatter developed qualities of pertness; it was as if 
a certain native commonness, hitherto in abeyance, 
were b^inning to assert itself in her manners, her 
speech. It seemed a pity to Fan. She had always 
liked Phemy, and had done a good deal for her, one 
way and another; had given her things, lent her odd 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 113 

trinkets, tried as far as she could to help her to have 
a good time. In some ways she had treated her more 
like a sister than a servant. 

From Phemy she fell to thinking of ICing, and the 
first time she had met him, when he had appeared 
like a travel-stained spirit in response to the ridiculous 
nonsense of the summer afternoon. She had disliked 
him then, but through her dislike, her condemnation 
of his artificiality, had struggled the half liking that 
was to develop, by swift degrees, into almost the 
first real friendship of her life. He was diflFerent 
from anyone she had known before; he seemed to 
symbolise the shifting, kaleidoscopic modem world 
from which she had always been shut out, the world 
of art and thought and action, the life which was to 
her the only life worth while. She liked him less 
for himself than for what he represented. He cared 
for the things she cared for, hated the things she 
hated. They understood one another; she could 
talk to him as she could never have talked to anyone 
else. And under his egoism, his pose, she recognised 
another deeper quality in him, a curious simplicity 
underlying the whimsical, conflictive surface, which 
she knew in chance glimpses to be his real self. 
Defining it by her standards, she would have said 
that he was a good man. Fan herself was irreligious 
I 



114 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

more through idlesness than actual conviction ; it was 
with her the natural outlet of an intolerance for all 
things fixed and traditional. Scoffing had come 
by habit to be second nature. Sometimes, talking 
to King, she had uncomfortable moments of wonder- 
ing whether her own attitude were after all so fine. 
He was sufficiently near her own age for his views 
to appeal to her where those of an older man would 
not. 

He had ridden down on his wheel this afternoon 
to the village. The sight of a man on a bicycle now, 
intermittently visible between the houses along the 
road, reminded her that it must be getting on for 
supper-time, and she rose, stretching herself, and set 
off along the footpath, a mere smooth line trodden 
on the pine-needles, which was the shortest cut 
through the woods. The pines here were older than 
many that grew about, tall grey-stemmed giants. 
They had been thinned and the undergrowth cleared 
from beneath them, giving breadth and freedom; 
broad spaces of sunlight and freckled amber shadows. 
Here and there was the flame of wild genista, and 
clumps of cactus, with pale yellow blossoms like 
great stars lying flat to the ground. A pine-lizard 
ran along a branch near the path, with a quick 
mouse-like scratching of tiny claws on the rough 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 115 

bark, a fleeting glimpse of bright eyes and palpitat- 
mg azure throat. Walking slowly, the pine-needles 
frag^rant under her feet. Fan was conscious of one 
of those rare moments of restfulness when the whole 
world seems good. She felt a sense of harmony 
with the summer world about her, a sheer gladness 
at being alive. 

The footpath brought her out on the main road, a 
little above the white cottage where Phemy lived. 
In the back garden she could see Mrs. Martin, an 
expansive vision of pink cotton shirt-waist and white 
apron, hanging out the week's wash. She moved 
ponderously between the line and a basket on the 
ground, her arms full of damp linen, and clothes-pegs 
held in her mouth; the capacity of Mrs. Martin's 
mouth for clothes-pegs had been one of the marvels 
of Fan's childhood. The front yard of the cottage 
and the porch itself were a blaze of yellow cannas, 
scarlet cactus, and begonias blossoming in tin cans, 
a riot of vivid conflicting colour. Mrs. Martin was 
by way of taking a pride in her front garden. 

By contrast, the grey front of the hotel, with its 
ugly signboard and the gaunt white flagstaff planted 
at one side, looked bare and unhomelike. Smoke 
rose in a thin curl from the kitchen at the back of 
the house. Someone was sitting out on the front 



Ii6 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

porch; as Fan drew nearer, crossing the road, she 
saw that it was a woman. 

The visitor was fair and somewhat stout, with 
regular features and face that might have been pretty, 
but for an unwholesome leaden pallor in the skin, 
and a certain cat-like cast of expression. It was the 
look of a friendly and contented cat; her mouth 
had a good-natured curve, and her blue eyes were 
habitually narrowed. Behind their drowsy look there 
lurked an alertness that might amount, tmder opposi- 
tion, to craft. Her cloth skirt was well cut, so was 
the white blouse above it, with its precise stock collar 
and black satin tie. She wore a French sailor-hat of 
blue straw, with a voliuninous white veil draped about 
it in a slight exaggeration of the summer's fashion. 
An expensive crocodile satchel hung from her waist- 
belt, and she had a long gold watch-chain round her 
neck, set with imitation stones. 

Her way of sitting on the porch implied somehow 
a possession, almost a statement of permanency. 
She smiled as the girl came near, showing a gold 
side-tooth. 

"Well, Fan," she cried cheerfully, "I was wonderin' 
where you were! I thought I didn't hear an3^hing 
of you round the house. My, but the place looked 
dumb when I got here! You might have thought 
everyone was dead or asleep!" 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 117 

"Oh r said Fan. 

She came slowly up the steps. Her young figure 
seemed to straighten all at once into lines of weari- 
ness. 

"What train did you come on?" 

"The four-fifty. Johnson brought me up. I thought 
your fathered have been there to fetch me, but I guess 
he couldn't have got my letter. I posted it last night, 
too." 

"Probably not." 

She moved to one of the pillars and stood leaning 
against it. Her gaze rested mechanically on the 
jewelled chain that rose and fell with its owner's 
breathing. 

"Well, you'd think you might give anyone a little 
pleasanter welcome, while you're about it!" said the 
visitor. Her voice took on a plaintive drawl, a note of 
aggrievement that was wholly incongruous to her 
bearing. She fixed her narrowed eyes on the girl's 
face. "You always was real hospitable, Fan !" 

A little hard smile came and went across Fan's 
mouth. 

"I guess you am't dependent on my telling you 
you're welcome," she said. "Do you want anything 
to eat? We have supper at six; I should think it 
must be nearly that now." 



ii8 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"I had something to eat before I left, since you're 
so pressin*. You ain't changed much ! Where's your 
father?" 

"I don't know." 

"Don't care, maybe. My, it's hot! Have you had 
it hot like this all the time?" 

She went on, regardless of the girl's indifference, 
with comments upon the weather, the dust, her 
journey down, the springs of Johnson's stage. She 
was one of those women who seem obliged to talk, 
independent of encouragement. Her voice flowed on 
in an aimless stream of chatter, half self-satisfied, 
half complaining. She took off her gloves, smooth- 
ing them across her knee, showing white, ill-shaped 
hands covered with cheap rings. 

Presently she said: "Look. I guess that's him 
comin' now, ain't it?" 

Fan turned swift eyes to the road. Round the 
bend by the Martin's cottage a man was approaching 
on a bicycle, and she recognized King. He rode 
easily, following the curves of the hard-beaten track 
which ran at one side of the road, the sunlight flash- 
ing on the spokes of the wheel. He dismounted when 
he reached the side fence, leaning his bicycle against 
it, and came up to the porch. A new magazine was 
rammed into his pocket beside the afternoon's mail, a 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 119 

newspaper and two letters tied about with string. 
He pulled them out as he came forward. 

"I got the mail," he began at once; "it was late 
coming in. I've been sitting on a pickle-tub discuss- 
ing the tariff with old man Dakins. When he gets on 
to an argument I always begin to wonder whether Fm 
going suddenly mad. He has *^ 

He broke off suddenly, catching sight of the 
stranger. The visitor's eyes swept from his slim, 
grey-clad figure to Fan, and the cat-like look flashed 
up in her sleepy eyes. "I should think you might 
introduce your friend. Fan," she purred. 

Fan bit her lip, and her chin lifted imperceptibly. 
She seemed to straighten herself as she stood. There 
was a moment's pause, and then she said without 
looking at him: 

"Mr. King, let me introduce you to ... my aunt, 
Mrs. Sales." 

The young man bowed. Mrs. Sales, extended her 
hand, beaming graciously from under the fashionable 
hat. 

"I'm pleased to make your acquamtance, Mr. 
King!" she said. 



BREAKFAST next morning was laid for two. 
King glanced at the table as he sat down, and 
Fan said: 

"My aunt has breakfast in her room/' 

It was rather a silent meal. Fan was in one of her 
imsociable humours. She left him to serve himself, 
and ate nothing: merely poured herself out a cup of 
coffee, and sat staring at the tablecloth with moody, 
inscrutable eyes. When he had nearly finished break- 
fast she roused herself to say: 

"Oh, I forgot. There's a cantaloupe in the ice- 
chest. Will you have some?" 

"Never mind, thanks." He took out his cigarette- 
case and made as if to push it across to her, but she 
shook her head. 

"Yes, I will too," she said then, and reached out 
her hand. She lit a cigarette, pulling out some of the 
packed tobacco from one end, and smoked it half 
through in silence, gazing out through the window 
behind his head. Presently she lowered her eyes to 
him abruptly. 

120 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 121 

"Did you ever pray for a thing and get it?" she 
asked. 

"Sometimes. Why?" 

"I was just wondering," said Fan. She leaned her 
elbows on the table and blew little rings of smoke, 
watching them curl upward. 

"I never did. When I was quite little I had a habit 
of praying for things, one time — just little things — 
and I always found if I wasn't very careful about the 
way I put it I either got something I didn't want or 
I got it some way I didn't mean. I firmly believed 
God would answer my prayers, but knew He'd do me 
over it some way if He possibly could. It wasn't just 
irreverence. ... Don't you ever have that feeling 
when you pray about things — ^that you'll get them, 
but you maybe get them in some way so they'll be 
useless?" 

King looked at her reflectively. 

"I'd hate to go through life," he said slowly, 
"saddled with your conception of God as a Being 
with every energy concentrated on the chance of 
doing people." 

Fan knocked the cigarette-ash into her saucer. 

"I guess one's conceptions get modified by ex- 
perience. Maybe I've had bad luck. If I set my 
mind on anything now, and wanted it tremendously, 



122 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

I should know perfectly well that Vd either not get it 
at all or else something mean would happen at the 
last minute to spoil it." 

"I know what you mean," said King. "We get 
answered with reservations. But that's rather better 
than not getting answered at all." 

"I don't think it is. I don't call it an answer to 
get something else you never meant and didn't want. 
It's like giving a child cake and putting mustard 
on it." 

"What have you been praying about ?" he smiled. 

"Nothing. Only I was just thinking about it. I'd 
rather think there wasn't any God than think He 
does mean things." 

"That sentiment doesn't strike me as exactly orig- 
inal!" 

Fan flushed a little. 

"Maybe it doesn't. Maybe other people have 
found out the same things I have." 

"I find it's usually the most religious people who 
have the least hesitation in telling the Lord what 
they think of Him when things go wrong." 

"Why shouldn't they?" she demanded. 

"Precisely — if it's any satisfaction. Got some more 
coffee? You know, I'm afraid of you when you get 
into these dark theological moods 1" 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 123 

Fan lifted the coffee-pot. "There's half a cup." 

"Don't put salt in it!" 

She opened her mouth to speak, then closed it 
again. King's eyes glinted appreciatively. 

"I know you am't," he said. "And a good thing 
too." 

"I guess there's some things would be different!'* 
said Fan grimly. 

She stood and began to put the dishes together. 
King found his cap in the entry, and looked in at the 
dining-room door again. 

"Are you coming down to the river this morning?" 

"I guess not. I've got things to do in the house." 

After he had gone, she cleared the table and carried 
the cloth outside and shook it. While she was folding 
it Mrs. Sales came in. She wore a starched lawn 
wrapper, belted round the waist by a pink ribbon, and 
trailing in untidy folds to her slippered feet. She 
looked sleepy and dishevelled, but the dishevelment did 
not extend to her hair, which was elaborately waved 
and fastened with turquoise studded combs. It was of 
an ashen fairness, deepening where its edges met her 
skin. The powder on her face showed heavily in the 
morning light, and there were bluish shadows under 
her eyes. She paused in the doorway, yawning, 

"Oh, you're through breakfast !" she said. 



124 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

''We always have breakfast at half-past e^ht,** 
said Fan« ''There's coffee out in the kitchen, and 
I guess there's some mush left You'd better ask 
Phemy.'* 

She finished folding the doth, and put it away in 
the sideboard drawer. 

"I don't know that I want breakfast," Mrs. Sales 
said. She sat down on a chair, putting up a hand 
to her forehead. With the movement it gave to the 
wrapper a faint scent of violets stirred on the air 
"My head's bad this morning. I guess it was the 
journey yesterday. I never could stand car rides in 
summer." 

"I should think coffee would do it good," said Faa 
indifferently. 

She fetched a duster and began to tidy the mantel- 
shelf. Mrs. Sales watched her with friendly listless 
eyes, yawning at intervals. 

"I like the way you fix your hair. Fan," she said 
presently. "I thought there was something different 
about you yesterday. It's the way the N' York 
girls wear it, only they do it higher in front. You 
ain't got any rat in yours, have you? You don't 
need it ; your hair's so thick." 

"It's the same way I've always done it.'* 

"It looks different," said Mrs. Sales. "You've got 
it more stylish." 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 125 

Fan's mouth tightened. She finished the mantel- 
shelf and went to the sideboard. Then she said : 

"Do you mind moving to another chair while I 
dust that one?" 

Mrs. Sales gathered her wrapper up fretfully. 

"You're bein' awful tidy nowadays! Breakfast at 
eight. . . • Runnin' the house on a chalk line, ain't 
you?" 

Fan made no answer, and she said after a moment : 
"How long's this feller been boarding here?" 

"Five weeks." 

"Goin' to stay all summer?" 

"I don't know. I suppose as long as it suits him." 

"Guess he's got money, ain't he?" 

Fan's duster paused for a second. 

"I'm sure I couldn't tell you," she said distaiitly. 

Mrs. Sales laughed, adjusting the wrapper folds 
about her waist. 

"All right ! You needn't get miffed I I was only 
askin'. I guess I ain't goin' to interfere with you." 
She paused a moment. "Seems to me we might be 
friendly, so long as we're all livin' in the same house. 
It looks kinder queer to outsiders, to be always 
quarrelin' with your aunt, don't it? 'T isn't respect- 
able. Relatives ought to live together peaceably." 

Fan shot a single glance at her. It was a curious, 



126 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

inscrutable look, and Mrs. Sales shifted under it with 
an attempt at easiness. For the moment she seemed 
ahnost to cringe. Then she laughed again. 

"Oh, all right 1 You always was queer. Fan. 
Only you might as well remember that when folks 
put up bluffs they're liable to get 'em called some- 
times. See? I ain't going to make trouble so long 
as you don't My, but my head's bad !" 

She scratched her wrist, where a mosquito bite 
showed red on the soft white skin. 

"I feel kind of done up this morning. I'd like a 
punch. Is there any milk in the ice-chest?" 

Fan's head was bent rigidly over the chair she was 
dusting. 

"Guess you can find out!" 

"Smart, ain't you? I reckon when that red-haired 
chap sees you in the bosom of your family he won't 
think so almighty much of your manners I'* 

She waited a moment, then trailed off toward the 
kitchen, where Phemy was at her dish-washing. 
Fan could hear her talking to the girl; they seemed 
on friendly terms already. 

She finished dusting, working with tightened lips, 
then crossed the entry to the parlour. The room 
was close; it had been shut up since last night, and 
it reeked heavily, as she opened the door, of spirits 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 127 

and stale cigar-smoke and the bumed-out oil from 
the lamp. She went to the windows and flung them 
open. Two empty tumblers had left wet rings on 
the tablecloth, which was marked with cigar-ash. 
Small moths and gnats, which had fallen from the 
chimney, clung to the metal base of the lamp, 
saturated with the exuding oil. The sweetpeas on 
the table were curled and shrivelled, killed by the 
vitiated air. Fan took them up and threw them out 
of the window. Then she carried the empty tum- 
blers and the lamp out to the kitchen. 

A yellow waggon stood waiting in the side-yard, 
and Phemy, her sleeves rolled to the shoulder, was 
giggling with the grocer's assistant, a young man in 
a jaunty light-grey suit and russet shoes, with a 
pencil stuck behind his ear. Unwashed saucepans 
stood in the sink. A dish-pan on the table was half 
full of greasy water, and near it some clips were 
turned down to drain. Fan pushed them aside "to 
make room for the lamp she was carrying. ^ .. 

"Is there anything we want from Beecham's beside 
the sugar?" Phemy asked. ' 

Fan looked in the dresser" cupboard. 

"You might bring sortie crackers, Qarence," she 
said. "And another box of sardines. And I guess 
we're out of cocoa too." 



128 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

The young man looked business-like over his note- 
book. 

"Crackers and sardines and ** 

"Cocoa." 

"Cocoa 1" Phemy repeated pertly. "My, but you're 
dumbr 

There was a half-heard retort and more giggling. 
Phemy returned to the kitchen and picked up a dish- 
towel flung temporarily across a chair. 

"Mrs. Sales took nearly half that milk for the 
pudding," she said as she resumed the interrupted 
drying of the cups. "I told her you wanted it, but 
she took it just the same." 

"Oh, it's all right," said Fan wearily. "We can 
get some more if Jones comes round." 

"He don't come around Fridays before two." 

Phemy went on with her dishes, singing. She had 
a clear girlish treble, that rose above the clinking of 
the china — 

"Honey, you stay in your own backyard, 
Don' mind what dese other chillun's do. 
What show you think they's a-gwine to give 
A black little coon like you " 

"Say, Mrs. Sales says the mosquitoes came in her 
room awful last night," she broke off to say. "She 
says so long as you're so particular about the house 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 129 

rtowadays you might have the screens seen to. 
There was a hole in hers." 

"I guess it's up to her to mend it/' said Fan. 

Phemy giggled. 

"She said she was goin' to take up one of the 
screens out of the parlour to-day. She was grumbling 
dreadful." 

"Well, she won't then. Those screens don't fit 
the upstairs windows anyway." 

"I told her I guessed they wouldn't," said Phemy. 
"But she said she was goin' to try." 

Fan went back to the parlour and finished dusting. 
Some books of King's were lying on the piano; they 
were books he had brought down with him and lent 
her to read — a new novel by a Western author and 
a much-handled copy of Vailima Letters. She put 
them away on the bookshelf. Mrs. Sales came in 
while she was still tidying up. She had changed her 
wrapper for the skirt and blouse she wore yesterday, 
and the eflFect was to give her some increase of 
dignity. She seemed to have forgotten their quarrel 
of an hour ago; she had a vague mind like a feather 
pillow, on which nothing left its impress for very 
long. Her face now shone with a kind of negative 
amiability, the goodnature of indolence. 

She was carrying something in her hand, and she 
put it down on the table. 

K 



130 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"I've just been unpacking," she said. "Things do 
get mussed in a trunk. Look, Fan, I brought this 
down from the city for you. I thought maybe you'd 
like it. They're wearin' a lot of 'em up there. I got 
it at Wanamaker's." 

It was a black velvet belt, with a dainty waist- 
buckle of worked metal set with blue stones. Other 
stones were dotted and studded at intervals on the 
velvet. Fan barely looked at it, and her face flushed 
a little. 

"Thanks very much," she said. "But I have a 
belt." 

"Guess you can do with two, can't you?" 

"I'm very much obliged to you, but I don't need 
it." 

"Well, do as you like," said Mrs. Sales. Her good 
humour seemed barely to suflFer under the rebuff. 
She gathered the belt up again, almost disap- 
pointedly. "You always was proud. Fan. I only 
just thought you'd like it, but if you don't you dcMi't 
Maybe it ain't good enough." 

Fan's face was burning. There was nothing she 
hated more than to hurt anyone's feelings, and though 
she knew Mrs. Sales' feelings to be beyond injury, the 
forced meanness of her own attitude over the trifle 
stung her sharply. It was such a trivial thing as to 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 131 

make her feel cheap. "It was awfully good of you," 
she said at last, stiffly. "It's real pretty . . . ." 

"Oh, well, I guess it don't matter," said Mrs. Sales 
equably. 

That evening, when Fan was helping Phemy with 
the supper things, her eyes fell on a glint of blue-and- 
silver at the girl's waist. 

"Where did you get the belt, Phemy?" she asked. 

Phemy's fingers moved to the buckle guiltily. 

"Mrs. Sales gave it to me." 

"Oh," said Fan. She dried a glass and set in on 
the dresser, her mouth straightened into an odd 
smile of contempt. "I shouldn't think you'd want 
to be taking presents from her." 

Phemy still fingered the buckle, half shamefaced, 
half defensive. 

"She — ^made me take it. I had to. I couldn't get 
out of it." 

"No?" said Fan drily. 

Phemy met her gaze, and the colour rose pink in 
her cheeks. 

"I didn't see why I shouldn't take it anyway," she 
said. "Just because I . . . didn't like her. I hadn't 
got one. It's a real nice clasp," she added defiantly. 



XI 



So far as King was concerned, the presence of 
Fan's aunt made very little outward diflference 
in the house. She never appeared at breakfast, 
rarely at other meals. She went for drives with 
Tasker in the spring buggy, and seemed to spend 
most of the time when she was at home either up- 
stairs in her room or in the parlour, reading novelettes 
in the chintz-covered rocker. Sometimes, going to 
and from his room, he encountered her on the stairs, 
a vision in a loose wrapper which exhaled violet 
perfume, and which she hitched about her, at such 
meetings, in folds that disclosed no slight solidity of 
build. Generally she carried a tumbler, in which ice 
tinkled plaintively. With the exception of these 
encounters, which had always an air of inadvertence, 
her presence was made known to him chiefly by the 
piano, on which she played long and laborious com- 
positions of a sentimental nature, with treble varia- 
tions and a solemn bass lagging always a fraction of 
a bar behind. Occasionally she varied these by 

132 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 133 

ballads, sung to the same toilsome accompaniment, 
in which widows set lamps in the window for only 
sons who perished by shipwreck in the second verse, 
or innocent little girls demanded of a sorrow-stricken 
Daddy why Mother never came Home. 

Fan rarely mentioned her aunt. When she had 
occasion to speak of her, it was always as Mrs. Sales. 

One effect of her visit was to throw Fan rather 
more upon King's companionship than hitherto, in 
the afternoons and evenings certainly. They had 
free use of the black horse and the buckboard, and 
they went for drives nearly every day. King gathered 
that her interest was less in the excursions than in 
getting away from the house. Usually their wander- 
ings .were without aim; they took whatever road 
they fancied, being glided not infrequently by the 
prejudices of the old horse, who, having once done 
his thirteen miles an hour, had settled down now to 
the simpler ambitions and contentments of serene 
middle-age. The country through which they passed 
was monotonous, but its monotony came to appeal 
to King, as thne went on, more strongly than variety. 
He grew to like the long, pale stretches of road, shut 
in by pine woods, the quiet homelike clearings here 
and there; old orchards and unfenced rustling corn- 
fields, and the little weather-beaten houses set down 



134 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

close to the roadside, where potatoes and hollyhocks 
grew side by side in the front garden,, Qiickens 
overran the porch, on the roofs of which tomatoes, 
set out to ripen, were sunning side by side with the 
family bedclothes. Frequently there was a well that 
still had the long, old-fashioned well-sweep, and the 
invariable tin dipper turned upside down. There 
was an air of peacefulness and content which might 
have been shiftlessness, but was none the less pleasant 

Sometimes they passed through cedar swamps, 
where low plank bridges spanned the clear, wine- 
coloured water. Twisted trees, festooned with grey 
moss, took the forms of weird human monsters, 
rising ghoul-like from among the pond-lilies. The 
undergrowth was of a luminous rank emerald, vivid 
and unnatural, and strange, poisonous flowers, like 
the blossoms of a tropical forest, burned in its depths. 
A deep, isolated stillness, diflFerent from the stillness 
of the pine woods, uncomfortable in its intensity, 
brooded over the swamp like a vapour, broken only 
by the stealthy splash of a mud-turtle from one of 
floating logs, and the beauty was the startling exotic 
beauty of decay. 

Returning from one of these drives in the evening, 
they stopped at the drug-store to get soda-water. 
It was the second week in August, and Matehocken 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 135 

was In full swing of its holiday pageant. The dinner- 
hour was just over. Hotels and cottages had poured 
out upon the board sidewalks a gay, summer-clad 
throng, young men and bareheaded girls in pretty 
muslins, who sauntered up and down or stood in 
chattering groups at street corners. There was a 
buzz of young voices, and exchange of greetings 
between one strolling group and another. Down 
the single trolley-line in the main street big yellow 
cars clanged at intervals, taking passengers to and 
from the beach. Ice-cream saloons looked prosperous 
and well-lighted, and outside the post office and the 
principal hardware store were gathered the usual local 
loungers. 

They tied the horse to the hitching-post outside 
the drug-store and went in. Beyond the screen-door 
was a pleasant scented atmosphere of drugs and 
perfumes and toilet soaps. A young man in a linen 
jacket came round from the prescription desk as Fan 
sat down. 

"Good evening. Will ! I'll have orange phosphate." 

He wiped off the marble and set down two tumblers 
in their silver stands. 

"Did you hear how Mrs. Coles' baby is?" Fan 
asked. 

He handed her the straws, smiling. 



136 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"I guess Mis' Coles won't give it the kerosine-can 
to play with next time all right I" 

"I guess not!" 

"What happened?" asked King as the clerk with- 
drew. 

"The baby was fretful," Fan explained, "and they 
thought the oil-can would be a real nice thing to 
keep it quiet. So it was. Mrs. Coles," she axitinued, 
taking a fresh straw from the bundle, "is notable for 
always being surprised when things happen. She 
has seven children, and how they have ever grown up 
is one of the village mysteries." 

She was in a nonsensical mood to-night; their 
drive had been one continuous exchange of absurdi-: 
ties from beginning to end. Sitting opposite to him 
now under the electric light, her cheeks flushed pink 
and her hair roughened by the wind, she was looking 
prettier than he had ever seen her. King lifted his 
glass, half smiling, half serious. 

Her eyes mocked him across the edge of the 
tumbler. 

"To our better acquaintance' !' 

"There are sinister possibilities in that toast," he 
objected. "Don't you know that the penalty for rash 
wishes is their realisation? You may yet live to dis- 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 137 

cover that I am a politician, or a millionaire, or a 
bishop on a rest-cure." 

Fan set her glass down. 

"Do your remember that first afternoon we met? 
Phemy and I had an argument all the way home as to 
what you were. I said you were a minor poet, and 
she insisted that you had broken loose from the 
asylum at Heronwood. We must go to Heronwood 
some day." 

"It is quite probable," said King. "I suppose 
there is as good company there as anywhere. Who 
will sign your certificate?" 

"Guess it hasn't come to that yet !" 

"Still, one never knows. Given the natural pre- 
disposition " 

"We ought to go to Heronwood," she reverted. 
"It's one of the prettiest drives round. I was just 
thinking to-day there are lots of drives we haven't 
been. We haven't been to Wright's mills."' 

"Is that another haven for the deluded?" 

"Non-official I" she laughed. "No, but it's an 
awfully pretty drive. It's an old deserted mill, and 
you get to it through the pine woods. People go 
there for picnics sometimes. We might go one day 
next week," she went on. "There'll be a moon then. 
We'll have supper early and start right after. Maybe 



138 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

father will let us take the mare. I know he's going 
up to the city one night next week, so he won't be 
using her then." 

"Good!" said King. "Don't forget it." 

"I won't forget." 

She finished her soda and wandered off to study 
the patent medicine displays and the glittering toilet 
knick-knacks under glass cases, while he waited for 
the clerk to come back. There was a magazine 
counter at one end of the store, and she moved over to 
it and stood reading down the titles of the summer 
monthlies stacked in neat rows. While she was there 
she heard the screen-door swit^ to, and a moment 
later someone exclaimed: "Why, Mr. King, are you 
down here I" 

Fan half tumea her head. The voice, pretty and 
clear-cut, belonged to a young girl who had just 
come into the store. She had a freckled, childish face 
and fair hair braided and tied with a wide black 
ribbon. She was plainly dressed, but there was dis- 
tinction in the cut of her white frock, the turn of her 
head. There was a boy with her, a year or two older 
than herself, and the two were sufficiently alike to be 
known for brother and sister. They stood talking to 
King near the soda-fountain. Scraps of their con- 
versation reached her as she bent her head again over 
the magazines. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 139 

"We've got the Hollywood Cottage, down by the 
beach," the girl was saying. "You must come down. 
I'd no idea you were here. Father will be awfully 
pleased. Where are you staying?" 

"The other end of the village — ^up the river." 

"We were out sailing on the river yesterday, 
weren't we, Jack? How funny if we'd seen you! 
We're staying till October. Don't you ever come 
down to the beach at all? The bathing's great. 
Father's taught me to swim. Remember what a 
time I had last year? I can go two yards by myself 
now." 

"With one foot down !" 

"I can, too! Mr. King, isn't he hateful? I wonder 
where the clerk is ! You've been getting soda, haven't 
you? This is the best place in the town; we always 
come here." 

"Dolly's had five sodas a day ever since " 

"Jack, you be quiet! He doesn't like it because I 
make him pay for them, and he's got twice as much 
as I have. I'm always broke !" 

"I remember you used to be," said King. "How 
about Bryn Mawr?" 

"I'm going this fall. Isn't it fine? Father prom- 
ised I should if I worked hard this last year, and I 
worked like — ^like anything, and now he's got to keep 
to it. I got first in Euclid." 



I40 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"I thought you looked as if your constitution had 
been hopelessly shattered I Been sitting up with a 
wet towel round your head?" 

"Oh, you needn't laugh I I never did such stunts 
in my life. Father said I had a spasm of conscien- 
tiousness. But I'm getting over it. Say, when are 
you coming to see us? Come on back to the cottage 
now, why can't you? We left them all sitting out on 
the porch. I know father would want me to bring 
you. Are you on your wheel? Jack and I are." 

"I'm afraid I can't come to-night, thanks. I'm 
with a friend." 

"Both come. Oh, I think you might!" 

Fan was engrossed in the pages of a magazine 
when she heard King's voice at her shoulder, a 
moment later, sa)ring: "Miss Tasker, I'd like you to 
know Miss Dorothy Harding and her brother." 

She turned slowly, and bowed. The girl Dolly put 
out her hand with a bright friendly smile that Fan 
liked instantly. She was not pretty, but there was a 
childish attractiveness in her straight freckled nose 
and grey eyes and the fair hair that was caught up, 
school-girl fashion, from her forehead. They stood 
and chatted for a few minutes — ^DoUy doing most of 
the talking — about the town, the beach, the river. 
She seemed to be good friends with King. He 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 141 

teased her with the right of old acquaintanceship, his 
gaze travelling whimsically from her face to Fan's. 
When they finally parted on the sidewalk, she said : 

"Now, remember you've got to come over. You'll 
make him, won't you. Miss Tasker? And I want 
you to come, too. Jack's got loads of friends here 
already and I haven't one. Come over any time. If 
you don't find us in the cottage you can hunt round 
the beach. Do you swim? I wish you'd come down 
to the beach sometime and we can go bathing to- 
gether." She turned to King as she led her bicycle 
to the kerb. "I'll tell father I found you and you 
were disagreeable, and wouldn't come along with us, 
and you see what he says!" 

"Is that a threat?" King laughed. 

Fan was waiting in the buckboard. 

"That's a dear little girl," he said as he climbed in 
beside her. "I'd no idea her people were down 
here. Her father is Kenneth Harding, who edits the 
Vagabond. He does a lot of critical work, too, in the 
Philadelphia papers. He conceals the sword of 
cleverness under one of the most genial exteriors I 
know. I always think I'd like to see Harding's look 
of blank amazement, if it ever came to a general 
reckoning, at the faces of all the people he's ever 
helped. There'd be a tremendous array of them. 



142 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

Dolly takes after him a lot. Do you know his work 
at all?" 

Fan turned out for an impending trolley. 

"I don't think I do." 

"He wrote a book called Torn Wings. Oh, you 
must read it! It's fine. I can send for it; I've got 
it at home. You'd like it awfully." 

They passed the car terminus and turned aside 
from the main street. Houses were set further apart, 
divided by vacant building lots and dark spaces of 
shadow. The horse knew the road and roused to an 
interested trot, his ears pricked forward towards 
home. Fan took the whip out. 

**It's queer you never ran across them before," she 
said. "But then you don't go down to the beach 
often. It seems a pity. I should think you'd go 
over and see them. I know the cottage; it's the end 
one out beyond the new hotel. It isn't far on your 
bicycle." 

"Oh, I don't know!" He lit a cigarette, shielding 
the match flame with his hands as they drove. "I 
don't think one wants to ... see people so much 
on a vacation, do you?" 

"It depends on the people. I should think you*d 
want to see friends at any time." 
She flicked the horse with the whip and sent him 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 143 

forward along the road. She was conscious of an 
irritation with King. It was one of those moments 
when his diflSdence amounted in her eyes to an affec- 
tation. He deepened the impression a moment later 
by saying : "It's a case of whether they want you." 

He was thinking of the relative relation between 
an occasional contributor to the Vagabond and the 
Vagabond's editor. It was a position which never 
existed in Harding's company, but which existed for 
King rather definitely, at moments, outside it For 
Harding himself he had a boyish admiration and 
enthusiasm, the attitude of the young man who 
hopes to do things toward the older man who has 
already done them. It was just this attitude which 
sensitised in a measure his pride. He had carried the 
latter to morbid lengths before now in avoiding the 
obvious chances for Harding's kindness. It was the 
pride of obscurity, which is sometimes keener than 
the pride of arrogance. 

"I guess they wouldn't ask you if they didn't want 
you," said Fan. In her own mind she added; "And 
you needn't be afraid I'm coming too!'* 



XII 



THE road to Wright's mills branched off at 
right angles through the woods from the 
Heronwood road, resolving itself, after the first mile, 
into a mere sandy cart-track half lost among the 
pines. The underbrush grew thick and close, brush- 
ing the waggon-wheels as they drove, an impene- 
trable jungle of young oak and sassafras and huckle- 
berry bushes. Clouds of mosquitoes rose from the 
disturbed foliage. The air was moist and breathless, 
like the air of a hothouse, and a limpid sea-green 
underlight dwelt below the interlaced branches. 
The wheels sank deeply into the loose greyish sand, 
giving to the buckboard something of the lurching 
movement of a small boat on a heavy sea. 

In one place the underbrush was scantier, and the 
exposed pine-trunks charred and blackened pear 
their base, the tide-mark left by some past sea of 
flame. Here and there a dead tree, killed by fire, 
stood out among its neighbours, its needles scorched 
to a bright rust colour. Fan pointed out the burned 
trunks with her whip. 

144 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 145 

"There's been a forest fire here since the last time 
I came," she said. "It's been both sides of the road 
but it didn't go very high. You can see." 

She put the whip back and wound the reins round 
it, letting the horse take his own pace through the 
sand. 

"I'd hate to meet a fire in these woods," she said 
after a minute. 

"What would you do?" 

She turned a quaint look on him. 

"Sit still, I guess. Why? Did you think you 
smelled smoke?" She laughed, leaning back against 
the seat. "It would be a pity to get burned up before 
we got to Wright's mills," she added. 

"It would rather. How far are we?" 

"Getting nervous? I don't know how far we are. 
Maybe we've come the wrong road. I haven't driven 
here for over a year. It'll be good one on me if I've 
forgotten the way !" 

She fell to whistling, watching the road before 
them for the first parting of the trees. The old 
black horse plodded leisurely, twitching his ears at 
the mosquitoes that buzzed in legions about his 
head. He had the resigned gait of an animal to 
whom all destinations are alike. 

"There's the mill," said Fan at last. 

L 



146 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

Greyish timbers showed through the trees a little 
distance ahead. The road came out in a clearing, 
dotted with stumps. There was a low plank bridge, 
crossing a stream that trickled deep wine-colour 
from the cedar swamp, and on the further side stood 
the mill, a ruinous frame building that looked un- 
comfortably desolate even in the sunshine. The 
roof had broken away in places and the windows 
were mere vacant gaps of black. 

They left the waggon at the side of the clearing, 
and picked their way across the debris to the door. 
Part of the chimney had fallen, and the ground was 
scattered with bricks. The door was nailed on the 
inside. Fan put her shoulder against it and pushed. 

"There's a window on the other side where we can 
get in," she said. 

He followed her roimd the angle of the building. 
Weeds grew rank and thick up to the walls. There 
was a window a few feet from the ground, and King 
swung himself over the sill and helped her after him. 
Inside was the close atmosphere of a building which 
has stood abandoned through season after season of 
sun and rain and snow. Cobwebs shrouded the 
beams, and dust-motes flittered in the light that 
came through cracks and openings. Some old sacks 
lay on the floor and fragments of rusted machinery. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 147 

Everywhere on the beams and window-sills three 
generations of picnic parties had carved initials; 
crude half-obliterated records of summers that were 
past, friendships that were forgotten; old secrets 
that the mills preserved long after their human 
sharers had gon^he way of the dust on its floor. 

Fan crossed to a window overlooking the stream 
and leaned her arms on the warped sill. The sun- 
light coming from outside quickened the threads of 
her hair to warm copper, gave rose-coloured outlines 
to throat and face. Her young living presence seemed 
to strike a note of revolt against the sombre desertion 
of the building; an intrusion of the present upon the 
past. King joined her, and they stood looking down 
at the water that ran almost under their feet, clear 
like wine in the shallows, deep blood colour in the 
shade. There was something sinister in the flow of 
it; it seemed to be dyed less by the stain of the 
cedar roots than by the stains of human lives. It 
was as if this water that filtered year after year 
through the forest were dyed by some immemorial 
tragedy, the curse of an enforced recollection. Some- 
thing had happened centuries ago that the stream 
would never forget. 

"What an abominable brook," said King instantly. 
"It looks like one of the plagues of Egypt I don't 
wonder they abandoned the mill!" 



148 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

Fan laughed. 

"They abandoned it for the unromantic reason 
that there wasn't enough water-power. That was 
fifty years ago, I guess. Jakey Rose remembers 
when they used to work it. 0>me on and look at the 
rest of the place." 

They wandered about the dim ^ empty building, 
exploring comers, looking up at the broken roof, 
the huge dusty beams. They picked a way across 
rotting floor boards to where the big wheel hung 
silent in its prison, and the water lapped against 
slimy oozing woodwork. On the worm-eaten guard- 
rail, polished by the contact of innumerable hands, 
someone had carved letters, M and T, surrounded 
by a neatly traced heart. The same design was 
repeated further on, upon a door lintel, and Fan 
said, "Look, that's older than the rest of the carving. 
I guess someone did it that used to work here." 

She looked curiously at the initials. "There's T. P., 
too. It's the same carving. Tom Pearce. There 
was a Tom Pearce that used to work here once. He 
was the grandfather of the Pearces that live up the 
Oceanhouse road. He used to beat his wife. He 
threw a hatchet at her once; I remember Sadie 
Pearce telling me. They were rather proud of him. 
I guess it's the same man." 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 149 

They turned and walked back to the window by 
which they had entered. King climbed through first, 
then held out his hand to her. 

"Stand back," she said. She gathered up her skirt 
and jumped down, landing on the weeds and scattered 
bricks beside him. 

"Why, you're all over dust I Am I? It's inches 
deep in there." 

"You've got it all over your coat." 

They brushed each other oflf, laughing. 

"What's the time?" said Fan. 

He pulled out his watch. "It's after six. How 
the afternoon's gone. We must have been half an 
hour in there." 

"We took a good while coming. I suppose we'd 
better be getting back if the horse is rested." 

"What's the hurry?" 

"All right," she said. 
, They recrossed the bridge and sat down on a log 
near the waggon. King rolled a cigarette. 

"Will you have one?" 

She nodded, and he handed the cigarette to her 
and rolled another for himself. For a little while 
they smoked in a companionable silence. The after- 
noon light had deepened, and the surrounding trees 
stood out in a level reddish glow. Strange hues of 



ISO THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

coral and umber played among fhe straight trunks 
and tangled branches. 

"What do you do with yourself all the winter?" 
King asked presently. 

"Oh, things," she said vaguely. She knocked the 
ash from her cigarette. "There isn't very much to 
do. Walks and drives when the roads am't too bad. 
From January to March are the roughest months 
here. We get terrific storms in January. It's worth 
coming down to see the beach when there's a north- 
easter on. You can hardly stand down there; it's 
great. I've put Will's oilskins on sometimes and 
gone down in the evenings." 

"Who's WiU?" 

"My brother." 

"I never heard you speak about him before." 

"No?" She paused. "He went away from here 
about six years ago, after my mother died. He's 
married somewhere. We never hear anything of 
him. He went West." 

"Is he older than you?" 

"Eight years. He had a row with Dad," she said 
after a moment. "I don't know . . . just what it was 
about. They never did get on very well. He's 
written once; two years ago, I guess." 

She leaned her chin on her hand, watching the 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 151 

sunlight on the pine-trunks. The blue smoke curled 
up rotmd her face. 

"I suppose you haven't many friends round here?*' 

"Not many." 

He pulled on his cigarette, which had nearly gone 
out "I should think it was pretty dull for you," he 
said then. 

"Sometimes." 

"Do you mind?" 

She turned her head, smiling. "Oh, everything 
goes in Jersey! It has to; I guess that's why," she 
added vindictively. 

"I suppose you know that's a frightfully immoral 
philosophy ?" 

"It's practical." 

"No it isn't. It's as bad as saying that whatever 
is is good. Whoever invented that catchword wasn't 
trying to justify the universe; he was trying to justify 
his own evasion of responsibility." 

Fan looked down at the pine-needles across her 
locked hands. 

"I believe in taking things as they come," she said, 
"so long as you can't make them any better. Certain 
things happen certain ways, and that's all there is 
about it." 

"But they don't have to happen necessarily," he 
objected. 



152 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"They do it all right, whether they have to or not 
That's the point you can't get away from." 

The sun, sinking, had dropped all at once below 
the level of the trees, and there befell one of those 
strange atmospheric transitions of the pine woods 
which remind one of the approach of nightfall in 
a musical comedy. There was a wonderful moment 
while the pines stood out like cardboard, in a strong 
haze of red and violet, each twig illumined, like trees 
in an enchanted jungle. There was a copper sheen 
on the fallen needles. Then the colour changed and 
faded, deepening by half tones till the trees stood 
bathed in a greenish twilight, and with the fading 
came a chilliness into the air. The last trace of red 
died out. Overhead the sky was of a pale lucent 
green like chrysophrase. 

Fan stood up. 

"We'd better be getting back," she said. "It'll be 
dark in an hour." 

They loitered over starting then; the faint chill 
had settled definitely in the air as they turned their 
backs on the mill and struck off along the narrow 
road through the woods. A little breeze that stirred 
with sunset set the pine-boughs rustling, accentuating 
the stillness. The sand grew deeper as they left the 
clearing behind, and the horse slowed down to his 
old patient walk. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 153 

"You might see if I put my jacket in," said Fan 
presently. 

He reached down and felt under the seat. 

"It's here. Do you want it?" 

"Not yet." 

She began to sing softly, plying the whip about 

the horse's imperturbable back. Her voice seemed 

rather to harmonise with the surrounding stillness 

than to break it. 

"In a cup of burnished gold, 
Thule's king his dead love was pledging. . . ." 

"Where did you learn that?" said King, as she 
came to pause. 

"A man who stayed here once used to sing it. 
He only knew three songs. That was one of them." 

"What were the others?" 

" 'The Marseillaise' and 'Mr. Johnson Turn Me 
Loose,'" replied Fan gravely. She added, "No, he 
used to sing a lot of those things though. He knew 
all the Faust music by heart; he could sit down and 
play the whole score through in the dark. He had 
a beautiful voice." 

"Tenor?" 

"No. I hate a tenor voice. He had a ... I don't 
know. Baritone, I guess. I liked his singing any- 
way." The horse, tossing its head, had hooked one 



154 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

of the reins over the end of the shaft, and as she 
reached forward to shake it free, she said : ''Isn't it 
queer how music and colour generally go together— 
in people I mean." 

"Very often they do. He was an artist then?" 

She nodded. King thought of the picture in the 
sitting-room, and wondered whether she would say 
more about him. He had his own theory about the 
origin of some of Fan's opinions, delivered at odd 
moments. They had not all of them the ring 
of original conviction. With all her wilfulness he 
fancied her rather easily influenced by anyone to 
whom she took a liking. But she only went on 
singing, glancing from side to side of the road as 
they drove. It was getting dusk, and the horse had 
to pick his way carefully over occasional fallen sticks 
and tiny bushes, strays from the undergrowth, that 
pushed here and there through the sand. The road 
seemed to have grown narrower since they passed 
along it two hours ago. Once in a while they had to 
bend their heads to avoid low-hanging branches. 
Presently Fan pulled the horse to a standstill, look- 
ing about her. 

"Do you remember passing that dead tree before?" 
she said. 

A stripped pine loomed grey and straight from 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 155 

the sea of underbrush a little distance in front, like 
a bleached skeleton among the green. King looked 
at the tree, then at her. 

"I don't remember noticing it. Why? Do you 
think we've come wrong?" 

"I don't know." 

She walked the horse a few paces further. Just 
beyond the dead tree the road forked. Fan studied 
the two diverging sandy tracks, both precisely alike, 
stretching off into the obscurity of the woods. 

"Do you remember the place where the forest fire 
was? We ought to have passed that again by now." 

"Maybe it's farther on," King suggested. 

"I don't think so. Not unless we've come a good 
way round. How long have we been driving?" 

"Just over threequarters of an hour." 

"We ought to have come to it by now," Fan said. 
"Never mind. I guess that's our road anyway." 

She pulled on the left-hand rein, and the horse 
started forward reluctantly. 

"All the roads round here are so much alike," said 
King. 

Fan looked at him enigmatically. 

"Yes," she said. "That's the beauty of them." 



XIII 

A PALLID twilight lingered interminably after 
the sun had set. Through its ghostlike dusk 
the trees took sudden and startling shapes. Here 
a stripped trunk glimmered imccMnfortably, or a dead 
branch thrust out like a naked human arm. Insects 
that woke with evening chittered in the underbrush, 
and their persistent isolated shrilling marked a grow- 
ing loneliness in the woods. It was an hour of grey- 
ness and mystery, of strange sotmds and curious 
rustling silences. The stunted pines took a new 
dignity; they seemed to stretch and breathe more 
freely, grow taller; assert their claims, as the im- 
memorial lords of the forest, against htunan intrusion. 

The waggon toiled slowly through the soft, thick 
sand. In front the road stretched like a pale in- 
definite aisle between the tree-trunks, losing itself in 
obscurity, revealing always the same monotonous vista 
of sand and pines and huckleberry bushes, dense un- 
dergrowth and interlacing boughs. 

For scMne time Fan had not spoken. She had 
driven in a preoccupied silence, searching for possible 

IS6 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 157 

landmarks in the failing light. As the twilight 
deepened and none of the expected landmarks were 
forthcoming, she began to laugh. King recognised 
her attitude as setting the final seal upon their situa- 
tion. Up till then he had credited her with some 
vague notion of the road they were travelling. 
When she laughed, the adventure resolved itself for 
the first time. 

"Well," he said. "I suppose this settles it." 

"I guess so." 

She answered laconically, pulling the horse up, and 
looked about. There was nothing to distinguish the 
road before them from any other of the hundred 
narrow cart-tracks which run everywhere, in aimless 
intersecting directions, through the Jersey woods. 
Other waggons might have passed along it yesterday, 
or a year ago. In the rainless stmimer the wheel- 
tracks would remain fresh for weeks. Somewhere 
a branch snapped, and the sound, coming sharply on 
the listening stillness, made them both jtimp. 

Fan gathered up the reins again. 

"I suppose the only thing to do is to keep on. 
This road must come out somewhere. We'd better 
stick to it till we find out. I wish I knew where 
we are." 

"Have you any idea?" 

"Not an atom." 



158 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

King laughed gaily. 

"My dear young lady, you had better make up 
your mind to face the inevitable fact that we are lost 
Lost completely, irrevocably, and without hope." 

**0h, we can't be lost!" said Fan. 

**Anything can happen in Jersey, as you once 
remarked. Apparently it has. What are you going 
to do?" 

"Keep on." 

She reached for the whip. The horse, tired out 
with fruitless plodding, halting, and turning, had 
developed during the past half-hour a gait of com- 
plete indifference to further happenings. The digni- 
fied slant of his Roman nose conveyed a reproach 
that was ahnost humiliating. The way he set down 
his hoofs expressed a jaded tolerance of these human- 
kind who did not know their own minds. 

"There are moments," said King, watching him, 
"when one realises the beneficence of Providence, 
which created animals dumb. If that horse could 
speak we should wilt under a flow of sarcasm. When 
he looks at me I feel my self-respect ebbing by 
degrees. Let's put up a bluff at all costs ! Once he 
finds out we don't know the road we shall be at his 
mercy. I have always been so fond of this short cut to 
Massachusetts, haven't you?" he went on, raising his 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 159 

voice. "It's so pretty further on, where one comes to 
the rustic bridge " 

"I don't know whether you want that horse to 
imagine that we are crazy as well as incompetent," 
said Fan sternly. "Besides, I have known him four- 
teen years, and you couldn't put up a bluff on him if 
you tried." 

"Oh, he won't mind me! He will put down any 
vagaries on my part to the inevitable madness of the 
city-dweller. It is on you that the brunt of his con- 
tempt will fall. I'd hate to live with a horse that had 
watched me grow up and know that I had proved 
myself a failure in his eyes. After this fiasco you'll 
never feel comfortable in his presence again. I feel 
so sorry for you, because I know just what it will be. 
Your whole future will be blighted. Years after, you 
will mention Wright's mills in a light-hearted mood, 
and that animal will turn round and transfix you with 
a stony stare. If you take my advice, you'll sell him 
and buy an automobile." 

"Or aii official map of New Jersey !" 

Both laughed absurdly. Out here in the woods it 
took very little to make a joke. The old magic of the 
forest was about then, the irresponsible spell of the 
green-wood where youth and age are one and wisdom 
makes for nonsense; and for the time being they 
were simply two of its children. Civilisation was 



i6o THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

remote. They might have been two adventurers 
journeying through a world entirely their own. 

Gradually the twilight closed and deepened, shad- 
ows lost distinction. Darkness set in, the fine scented 
dusk of the pines. Tiny creeping sounds multiplied 
in the stillness. 

"I wonder where we are?" said Fan for the hun- 
dredth time. 

"If we had a planchette we could ask it" 

The question did not present itself to either of 
them as being of very immediate importance. King 
lit his pipe. 

"What on earth is the good of wondering?" he 
said. "They will send search parties out for us pre- 
sently, if we have patience, and we shall find our- 
selves the heroes of a two-column story in the Sunday 
papers. Think of the glory of it! 'Lost in the Pine 
Woods. The Extraordinary Adventures of two Pre 
sumably Sane People in the State of New Jersey.' If 
we ever get out we could work it up ourselves on 
half-shares, with illustrations. I know a man who'd 
fake them for us. Picture of the pine woods. Picture 
of the sign post we ought to have found and didn't. 
Picture of the road we oughtn't to have taken and did. 
Panoramic view of a rubbish heap in the neighbour- 
hood of Wright's mills. HucJcleberry bushes on the 
road to Wright's mills. Picture of another part ^ 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH i6i 

*TDon't be so ridiculous!" cried Fan. She began 
to laugh again helplessly. 
"What are we going to do?" 
"Do?" said King cheerfully. "Oh, just keep onl" 

With nightfall the woods had grown chilly, but 
once in a while a warm breath of air met the 
wanderers' faces out of the darkness, as if some huge 
unseen creature of the forest sighed in its sleep. In 
these vagrant exotic puffs of air, companioned always 
by a deeper hush of silence, there was something in- 
explicable, uncanny, even though one knew it to be 
merely part of the phenomena of the pines. King 
remembered that the darkies had a superstition re- 
garding it. 

The trees developed in the darkness weird vagaries 
of form and position. They seemed to crowd and 
jostle to the edge of the road, stretch dry, clutching 
fingers at one's hair. It was as if, released from 
daylight thraldom, they changed at nightfall into 
malignant personalities. They stretched and breathed 
and tittered, rocked themselves to and fro, hugging 
their branches in a ghoulish rhythmic dance. ScMne- 
times they tramped, keeping abreast of the waggon 
with great springy stride^, dragging their roots 
through the crackling underbrush. Occasionally one 
tree stepped out from the ranks of its companion^ 

M 



i62 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

and straddled across the way. Whenever this hap- 
pened the horse stopped short, and King had to 
get out of the waggon and lead it back into the road 
again. Generally they held conflicting opinions as to 
which was the road, and the horse maintained its 
views by dragging stubbornly at the bridle and tread- 
ing on King's toes in the dark. 

Twice they missed the road altogether, and only 
found it again after centuries of groping through 
pine-stumps and prickly underbrush. The second 
time this happened they lost the buggy whip, and 
King had to go back and hunt for it He spent 
ten minutes in the search, floundering blasphemously 
among huckleberry and sweet-fern, and when he 
found the whip at last it was broken, having fallen 
between the wheels. He had stubbed his toes against 
tree-roots; his hands were covered with scratches 
and his shoes full of sand. But his good humour 
remained unassailable. It was as if their adventure 
had roused in him a new spirit of boyishness, helped 
and brought about by the free unspoiled isolation and 
friendliness of the pine-woods. Under their spell he 
seemed to lose the little artificialities of his every-day 
self, to become for once simply the natural easy 
comrade. His very laughter had a different ring. 
Fan, meeting his mood half-way, felt that the hour 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 163 

put their friendship on a new basis. She liked him 
better than she had ever done before. 

Nevertheless, as they drove through the darkness, 
the possible real value of the affair was beginning to 
dawn upon him by degrees. More than once it 
occurred to him to wonder whether it had also 
dawned upon her. He glanced at her as she sat 
beside him in the driving-seat, her head held a little 
back and her face a mere pale blur above her up- 
turned jacket-collar. Their fund of gaiety had for 
the time exhausted itself, and they had relapsed, for 
the last half mile, into the tacit silence of companion- 
ship. Around them stretched the vast kindly dusk 
of the pine-woods, a formless blackness wherein tree 
melted into tree, shadow into shadow. The crunch- 
ing of the wheels broke a stillness which was in effect 
only a quivering web of sound. Ever3rwhere twigs 
were rustling, branches creaking, tiny noises signi- 
ficant of the eternal prowess of growth and decay 
going on ceaselessly day and night. Something 
stirred a mile away, and the sound was caught up 
and echoed and multiplied. And everywhere, over 
these leagues of scrub forest, where dynasty after 
dynasty had arisen and flourished and passed away, 
was being waged the old eternal death-struggle of 
the oak and the pine. King almost fancied he could 
hear this struggle going on about him, an inarticulate 



i64 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

voiceless conflict, tree forcing tree, the new life crowd- 
ing out the old, in the great civil war of the forest 

Presently a flat copper moon rose inch by inch 
above the level of the pine boughs. Shadows de- 
fined themselves across the loose trampled sand of 
the road; the ground took form and colour and the 
twigs of the nearest trees stood out in a frost-like 
tracery. 

Somewhere a night-hawk whirred and screeched, 
three harsh rapid cries. It roused King from a 
reverie. 

"Did you hear that?" 

"Whippoorwill." 

Fan shifted her position in the waggon, leaning 
back. The sound of their voices, lowered uncon- 
sciously, served to break the spell of a silence that 
had become almost too finely stretched. King moved 
his feet, cramped in the narrow space of the waggon, 
and looked at his watch. 

"What's the time?" asked Fan without turning. 

"Only just ten." 

"I thought it was more." 

"That's all. Are you tired?" 

"Oh, no." 

"You'd better let me drive a while," he said. 

"No. I'm all right." 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 165 

"Change over." 

There was authority in his voice. She stopped 
the horse before realising that she had intended to 
do so, and they changed places. She was not sorry 
to move; she had been sitting in one position for 
nearly three hours, and her fingers were stiff with 
holding the reins. As they resettled themselves his 
arm slid naturally along the back of the seat. 

"All right?" 

"M-m." 

She leaned back with an odd new sense of content- 
ment. Overhead the moon rode high and remote 
in a cloudless vault of dark blue. It threw their 
shadows, and the bobbing outline of the horse's 
head, long and sharp across the laced pattern of 
branches on the road. There was a cold frosty light 
on the trees about them, and the greyish sand of the 
road looked like snow. The vista before them stood 
out in the negative blacks and whites of a winter 
landscape. 

For some little time the road had widened imper- 
ceptibly. The trees grew thinner and smaller, a 
second growth that had sprung up since the land was 
cleared. Old burned stumps stood out here and 
there among the low tangle of bushes. They passed 
a narrow belt of cranberry bog, where planks 



i66 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

spanned the road, with a ditch on either side. 
Presently King said, "Look, there's a clearing." 

The woods parted all at once, and they were out 
on a hard level road, with telegraph-poles along it 
There were more pines on the opposite side, dense 
and close growing like those through which they had 
driven. King turned to her. 

"Shall we toss up for which way ?" 

Fan hesitated a moment. "To the right," she said 
then. 

"Do you know this road?" 

"I think so. It looks like a part of the Heron- 
wood road. I can tell further on." 

It was a frank lie, but one way was as good as 
another. She had some vague sense of direction, 
and it was in her mind that she didn't want to get 
back to Matehocken just yet. She was enjoying the 
drive too much willingly to shorten it. They would 
have to reach home sometime, but now they were 
out of the woods she had a sudden reckless desire 
to prolong the adventure as far as possible. One 
might as well hang for a sheep as a lamb. She 
reflected that when her father came to know of the 
evening's work there would be a row anyway, and it 
might as well be a good row while she was about it. 
She would take her enjoyment while she could. 

King turned the horse about. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 167 

"We'll try it, anyway," he said. 

They drove for a time in silence. Gradually the 
pines gave way to cleared land, wide spaces of 
pasture, silvered by moonlight and dotted with tiny 
cedar shrubs, and the pasture to fenced-in cornfields. 
They were nearing civilisation again. The breeze, 
after the heavy shut-in air of the pines, felt pleasantly 
cool and fresh. There was in it a faint night sweet- 
ness, a smell of orchards and moist earth and unseen 
growing things. 

They came to a placard, nailed to a tree at the 
comer of a field. King gave her the reins to hold 
while he went over to look at it. He waded knee- 
dfeep through weeds and brambles, and when he got 
close up he read : 

WHEN YOU VISIT MONTEREY 

DINE AT 

DUQUESNE'S FRENCH RESTAURANT. 

In the light of their wanderings the advice struck 
him as a rather fine achievement of local humour. 
It was like telling a man lost in Central Asia the 
best place to get his shoes blacked when he came 
to New York. But as he climbed back into the 
waggon Fan said: 

"Monterey? We can't be near Monterey I" 

"Why? Isn't there such a place?'* 



i68 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"Yes, there is. But it's miles oflF." 

"In that case we ought to be nearly there. How 
far is it from Matehocken?" he asked. 

"About . . . nine miles. It's out Heronwood way." 

"Do you know the road back when you get there?" 

"Yes. I've been there — ^in the daytime." 

"Then I guess we'd better push on," said King 
decisively. 

She looked at him rather oddly. "All right," she 
said. He gathered up the reins and they started on. 

"We can ask when we come to a house," King 
said. After a while he added, "We may fetch up in 
the Heronwood asylum yet before we get through 1 
It would be a fitting end to this evening's adventures. 
If the worst comes to the worst, we might go there 
and give ourselves up on the charge of convicted 
vagrancy. We would probably find it more comfort- 
able than the workhouse." 

At the first house they came to everyone was 
asleep. King went up and hammered fruitlessly on 
the door. All the windows were dark and the lower 
shutters fastened. He went round to the side door 
and tried that. There was no response, and in return- 
ing he fell over an empty box and barked his ankles 
severely. 

"I guess all the folks died last week," said Fan. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 169 

"Maybe it was smallpox. Is there anything worth 
taking?" 

King groped about the front yard. "There^s a 
pump. Do you want a drink ?" he called. 

"If the dipper's clean." 

"You'll have to take it on faith." 

He picked the dipper up, but it was chained, and 
flew back from his hand against the pump with a 
loud clang. Almost immediately an upper window 
was flung vidleritly open and a woman's head thrust 
out, embellished with curlpapers. 

"Whatjer want?" she demanded sharply. "Who 
is it?" 

King stepped backward, craning his neck. "Can 

you tell me ^" he began, but Fan interrupted him 

from the waggon. 

"Is this Vannote's house?" she called. 

"No, it ain't!" 

The window was slammed viciously. It shot up 
again a moment later, and the woman leaned out. This 
time she had a patchwork counterpane about hef . 

"Do you want the Vannote that keeps the saloon 
over to Monterey, or the Vannote that peddles?" 

"The Vannote that peddles," said Fan unhesi- 
tatingly. 

"It's the next house up the road, but he ain't to 
home." 



170 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"I thought this was his house. Are you sure it 
isn't? Whose house is it?" 

"It's Mrs. Johnson's, an* I'm Vannote's wife sister. 
What do you want him for?" 

"We just wanted to see him on business." 

"Well, he ain't home. You can leave the message 
with me." 

"I'm afraid we can't. It's rather particular. He's 
got a son, hasn't he ?" 

"Yes, he has, an' you wanter leave him alcxie too. 
I'm his aunt." 

"What a pity I" 

"What's that? I can't hear yer." 

Fan raised her voice. 

"I said it was a pity he wasn't at home. We made 
sure we'd find him. Maybe he's in Monterey?" 

"How far are we from Monterey?" King put in. 

Vannote's wife's sister transferred her attention to 
him. 

"What do you want at Monterey?" 

This was too much for King. 

"We wanted to inquire at the Baptist chapel about^ 
obtaining a piano-organ on the hire system," he re- 
turned. "Is there anything we can do for you there?" 

"No, there ain't. An' you wanter get out o' here, 
young man, an' keep a civil tongue in your head. 
This is a respectable house " 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 171 

"I'm sure it is," he murmured. 

"^'What you sayin' about my house? If you don't 
get out right now Til sis the dog on ye!" 

"Do you mind telling us how far we are from 
Monterey ?" 

"Are you going to git outer here?" 

"When you tell us ^" 

"I'll sis the dog on ye. You mind me. I ain't 
goin' to be dragged out of my bed this time o' night 
by no red-headed " 

There were sounds of sudden collapse from the 
waggon. King turned and fled. The voice of 
Vannote's wife's sister pursued them up the road, 
growing thinner and shriller till it faded at last in 
the distance. 

"Guess the old woman's pretty mad," said Fan. "I 
don't wonder her brother-in-law took to jpeddling!" 

The horse slowed down to a walk. They reached 
some straggling houses, set back behind front gardens, 
and the desultory beginning of a sidewalk. 

"I'd like to go back that way and fix something 
up on her. Fancy her having the nerve " 

"Who's the Vannote that peddles?" said King. 
"It sounds rather romantic." 

"I never heard of him before." 

The road took a sudden turn, and they found them- 
selves in Monterey. 



xiy 

"T Tl TE ought to get the horse a drink," said Kling. 
V V "I wonder if there's any place open still." 
He did not want to look at his watch again just 
now, but he had a strong notion that it must be after 
twelve. He hoped Fan wouldn't ask him what the 
time was. As long as they were out on the country 
roads, where they met no one, it hadn't mattered, 
but now, brought face to face again with lights and 
houses and civilisation, the responsibilities of the 
adventure were beginning to work through uncom- 
fortably in spite of him. He almost wished they 
could have skirted the town altogether. He looked 
about him at the street through which they were 
driving and half-consciously pulled the horse to a 
slower pace. 

It was a wide street, with stone sidewalks edged 
by maple trees, and elaborate frame-houses, with 
wide trellised porches, standing back behind little 
shaven lawns, cool green in the electric light, and 
patterned with quivering tree-shadows. It all looked 

172 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 173 

quiet and peaceful and ominously decorous, confront- 
ing the wayfarers with a new appreciation of their 
position. Here and there one of the little close- 
cropped lawns had been recently watered, and the 
cooling smell of drenched turf rose pleasantly on 
the night air. Most of the houses were shuttered, 
but from one of them, which had in front flower- 
beds laid out in gay colours, there came through the 
wire-screened windows a flood of soft lamplight and 
the tinkling of a piano, playing a Sousa two-step. 
Once a small terrier, asleep on some piazza steps, 
started up and barked at them indignantly. 

"Do you know anyone here?" asked King casually. 

"Not a soul. I've only been in the town twice." 

He shifted the reins between his fingers. 

"We might go to one of the hotels, if they're 
open. I should think it would be all right. Am't 
you hungry?" 

"I'm thirsty." 

"So am I. We could get a drink anyway. I 
guess there's nothing the matter with trying?" 

"I don't care." 

They turned oflF into the main street. Here, under 
the arc lamps, everything looked cheerful and wide- 
awake, despite the hour. The post office was closed, 
but there was a drug-store open, and a big white-and- 



174 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

gold hotel at the next comer showed quite a welcome 
of lights. There seemed a good many people about 
still. Two buggies and an automobile were drawn 
up outside the hotel, from the dining-room windows 
of which, as they drew nearer, came the strains of a 
waltz. There was a general air of leisure and pros- 
perity about the building itself; the wide porch, 
where men were lounging and chatting — ^ prevalence 
of Panama hats and riding-boots — ^the tall, green 
palms that showed just inside the lighted vestibule. 
The two waiting buggies outside looked smart and 
well-equipped. 

King pulled the horse up and gave the reins to 
Fan. 

"Do you mind waiting outside till I go in and 
see what it's like?" he said, 

"Sure." 

He ran up the steps and disappeared inside the 
vestibule. The bare-headed girl and the shabby buck- 
board made rather an incongruous picture, waiting 
outside under the electric light, and Fan was con- 
scious that one or two of the loungers stared at her 
curiously. She began to wish she had a hat on, and 
she regarded the horse's head steadfastly until King 
returned. He was not gone many minutes. When 
he came back he was carrying a ttmibler in his hand. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 175 

"I brought yours out," he said "I thought you 
needn't bother to get out of the waggon." 

He said nothing more about a meal, and she felt 
intuitively that for some reason he was anxious to 
get away as soon as possible. The knowledge 
determined her obstinately not to hurry, and she 
drank her ginger-ale slowly, conscious that he was 
fidgetting to be off. Voices reached them from the 
interior of the hotel, where the waltz strains had 
ceased, and an occasional burst of laughter. People 
seemed to be having rather a good time in there. 
Fan liked the lights, the stir of gaiety. She didn't 
see why he should be in such a hurry to go; five 
minutes couldn't make much diflference on the home- 
ward drive. 

Two men detached themselves from the group on 
the piazza and began to get the automobile under way 
for departure. King put out his hand. 

"Finished?" 

"No," said Fan. She made a deliberate feint of 
emptjdng her glass. She felt that he knew she was 
dawdling purposely, and she resented it. Jt was the 
first disagreeable moment of their evening. She 
gave the tumbler back to him at last. 

"Am't you going to get the horse a drink?** 

"I guess we can get that further on.'' 



176 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 



He took Ac tsofftj luniMri rack* and cBmlifn 
into die waggoo ^gain beside her. As fhej passed die 
end of die ^w j f f j , a. jomig nBOy lounpog' agaiait 
die rnly calVd fjniiTuflj r 

•OTov Fan! Nice eraungr 

King turned dafplr. Fan bad turned too^ but 
when be glanced at ber she was lookni^ stra^it 
abead down die l^;bted sHecL Her face bad flushed 
a Httle. 

-^'ondcr who diat was?* 

•^Vho what was r 

*T)idn't someone call yoa?^ 

''Oh. I don't know," she said indifidrentty. 1, 
didn't sec.'' 

She was lying, and he felt it. He touched the 
horse up with the whip, and they drove off down 
the empty street, past the dosed shops, the deserted 
sidewalks. All the life of the town seemed to centre 
round the hotel; here was simply the usual stillness 
of a small country borough at midnight. Once they 
had turned their back on the lights of the town an 
odd constraint settled on them. Each felt it. It was 
the inevitable reaction from the evening's high spirits. 
Their good-humour had temporarily spent itself, and 
the adventure was dragging to a close. They were 
coming back to everyday things, everyday limitations. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 177 

Fan spoke scarcely at all. She let King drive 
most of the way, and sat leaning forward, her chin 
on her hands, staring out down the long grey road. 

Once he said to her: "Are you asleep?" 

"No." 

She barely roused herself to answer him, and for 
the rest of the way he left her to her silence. 

The house, when they reached it, showed a blank 
unwelcoming front. They got in by the unbolted 
back door, after putting the horse away, and Fan 
groped for matches and lit the kitchen lamp. The 
table showed a confusion of unwashed supper dishes. 
King held the light for her while she rummaged 
through the ice-chest for food. They found milk 
and sausage and cold rice-pudding. Something of 
the earlier mood of the evening returned to them 
over the impromptu meal. Both were hungry, and 
they laughed and joked across the littered table, 
with the feeling of conspiracy inevitable to two 
people lunching surreptitiously while the rest of the 
household sleeps. They re-dwelt upon their wander- 
ings, the chained dipper and the encounter with 
Vannote's wife's sister, but neither of them mentioned 
Monterey. 

When Fan rose finally to go, she said: "I guess 
N 



178 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

ril take this lamp up with me. Can you find your 
way?" 

"Sure. Good night." 

"Good night I" she said. 

He heard the entry stairs creak cautiously under 
her steps. He lingered a moment in the dark 
kitchen, picking up the matches oflf the table and 
put them in his pocket. Then he heard her coming 
back. 

"I forgot the door. Do you mind seeing to it?" 

"All right." 

She had set the lamp down on the top step, and 
the flood of light behind her threw her figure into 
relief as she paused half-way down the enclosed 
staircase. 

"Good night," he said again. "Oh, dash itl" 

"What's the matter?" 

"I dropped the matches." 

"I'll bring the lamp." 

"Never mind. It's all right." 

He went down on one knee and began to gather 
them up. She left the lamp at the head of the 
stairs, where its light threw a straight Beam across 
the entry floor, and went back to help him. The 
matches had dispersed with the instantaneous facility 
of their kind, and it took a long while to collect 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 179 

them. In the single lamp ray the brown head and 
the red were momentarily close together. 

"I guess that's the last," said King. "Thanks." 

He took her hand to help her up, and held it a 
moment longer than he had ever done before, half 
drawing her towards him. Their eyes met and she 
turned swiftly away, pulling her hand from him 
almost sharply, and fled up the narrow staircase. 

She seemed to forget that she had left him 
entirely without a light. He went back and found 
the kitchen door, feeling for the bolts in the dark. 
When he got upstairs her door was shut, but the 
faint yellow chink from under it guided him across 
the creaking, uncarpeted landing to his own. He 
undressed and went to bed, and slept the untroubled 
sleep of the healthily tired. 

In the next room Fan, for the first time in her 
life, lay awake through long restless hours, staring 
with wide eyes into the darkness. 



XV 



MRS. SALES trailed into the room where Fan 
was clearing away the breakfast things. 

"You got home pretty late last night, didn't 
you?" she began genially. 

"Did it disturb you?" 

"No, indeed. You come in so quiet I wouldn't 
have heard you — only I just happened to be sittin' 
up reading. I didn't like to go to bed till I knew 
you was safe in," she added. 

"TJiere wasn't the slightest occasion for you to 
have waited, thanks." 

"What kept you late?" 

"We missed our way," said Fan shortly. 

Mrs. Sales smiled. 

"You chose a good night for it, didn't you ?" 

"What do you mean?" 

Fan turned and faced her coldly. 

Mrs. Sales smoothed out the folds of her wrap- 
per, smiling still. 

"Oh, nothin'," she said. "Only it seems kind 
i8o 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH i8i 

of funny you should go out and miss your way and 
not get back till two o'clock in the momin', just 
the one night your father happened to be away in 
the city." She lifted her eyes full to the girl's face. 
"Of course, it ain't any of my business. Only 
I guess you needn't be holdin' your head so high 
above other people's, that's all." 

"When I want your opinion on my actions," said 
Fan slowly, "I'll ask for it. Do you understand?" 

"All right. You needn't get mad. I was only 
thinkin' it would sound kind of queer if it got 
about. People don't get lost in the pine-woods quite 
so easy as a rule, particularly on moonlight nights, 
and particularly when they know all the roads as 
well as you do. However, it's your look-out, not 
mine. Only I wouldn't get to talking about it too 
much, if I was you. It don't hang together quite 
good enough!" 

Fan set her lips. King happened to come into 
the room at the moment, and Mrs. Sales turned 
to him smilingly. 

"Good morning, Mr. King," she drawled. "I was 
just sayin' how awful funny it was. Fan losin' her 
way like that last night." 

"Yes, we did have quite a time," said King easily. 
"Was Miss Tasker telling you? I must claim most 



i82 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

of the credit. We got talking and never noticed 
the road. We got on a wrong turning from Wright's 
mills." 

He was looking about the room for his pipe— he 
generally managed to mislay it, two mornings out 
of three — and he did not see Mrs. Sales' eyes travel 
guilelessly from his face to Fan's and back again. 

"Wright's mills," she said. "Was that where you 
went? Why, that's where the picnic parties go— 
off the Heronwood road, isn't it? I should have 
thought that was a pretty straight road." 

"We got balled up, anyway. Did you see my 
pipe. Miss Tasker?" 

"I think it's in the parlour," said Fan. 

"I thought I — ^never mind. I've got it." 

He picked it up from where she had put it ten 
minutes ago. 

"It's a good joke on Fan," Mrs. Sales purred, 
watching him, "seein' she always claims she knows 
all the roads round here so much better than anyone 
else." 

It was just the shade of cltmisiness that gave her 
away. King turned, with the pipe in his hand. 

"Exceptions prove the rule, don't they?" he said 
pleasantly. 

Mrs. Sales got up. She was never quite at her 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 183 

ease in King's company. She turned for a parting 
shot as she reached the door. 

"Well, I don't see now how she come to miss it. 
I think it's awful funny. But I guess it didn't 
matter, so long as you had a nice ridel" 

She retired equably, her wrapper trailing after her 
round the comer of the door. King lingered in the 
room a few minutes, cheery, matter of fact; then he 
filled his pipe and wandered out. 

Left to herself, Fan went about her household 
tasks slowly. So it was going to be war. Well, 
she didn't mind. She had had last night It had 
been one good time, while it lasted, and if she had 
to pay for it she didn't care. One paid for every- 
thing in this world; she had learnt that gospel long 
ago. It was just a question of choosing the things 
that were worth having. 

In the shabby, familiar room, with the sunlight 
pouring in through open windows, the memory of 
last night's drive came home to her; the moonlight, 
the silence, the stretches of sleeping country, till she 
was more acutely conscious of everything in retro- 
spect than she had been at the time. She lived over 
every moment again, and with the recollection came 
a new fierce joy, a self-consciousness that sent the 
blood tingling to her face, though there was no one 



i84 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

in the room. She put up her hand to her cheek 
instinctively, as though the furniture about her had 
eyes that knew. She had passed the first milestone 
on the road of youth. Something familiar had gone 
out of her life, something fresh had come into it, and 
as yet the new was strange. She had a fleeting 
sense that she wanted things to stay for a time 
as they were; to have no further change, no further 
knowledge. 

It was one of her muddly mornings. Breakfast 
had been late and everything was behindhand. She 
was hurrying to get through, to get out into the 
open air by herself before dinner, and everything 
seemed to take twice as long as on other days. She 
went out into the kitchen and found Phemy among 
a litter of unwashed dishes, despondently collapsed 
upon a chair. There seemed to have been no 
attempt at getting the morning's work through. 
She began to groan at once when Fan came in. 

"Oh, Fan, I feel awful bad," she said. 

There was no immediate sympathy on Fan's face. 
Joy has a way of making us harder-hearted than 
sorrow. Once or twice lately Phemy had com- 
plained of feeling queer in the mornings, and she 
had noticed that the attacks usually coincided with 
any extra amount of housework. In a way, Phemy 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 185 

had certainly not improved since Mrs. Sales came 
to stay in the house. Between them had developed 
with small delay a friendliness that amounted to 
comradeship. Mrs. Sales used to come into the 
kitchen and chat sympathisingly with Phemy over 
her work, partly because it was a necessity with her 
to have someone to talk to, even though it were 
only a girl Phemy's age; chiefly, as Fan was aware, 
for the purpose of annoying herself. Fan never 
gave her the satisfaction of knowing that she suc- 
ceeded. She chose simply to ignore the new 
combination of forces in the househqjrf ' as being one 
of the things that weren't worth troubling about; 
knowing perfectly well that as soon as Mrs. Sales 
had gone Phemy would return gladly enough to 
the old allegiance. Meantime Phemy fetched and 
carried for Mrs. Sales, n^lected her work to per- 
form that lady's minor errands, at first shame- 
facedly, then with a pert self-assertion that set Fan's 
authority at naught. Mrs. Sales was one of those 
people who derive a good-natured satisfaction from 
giving away small articles for which they have no 
further use themselves. She was in the habit of 
lavishing indiscriminately little personal trifles of 
which she had grown tired, and if Phemy did not 
actually shake the tree she at least took good care 



i86 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

to stand underneath. Fan suspected that a good 
many things beside the fancy waist-buckle had found 
their way to the girl's possession. 

She looked round now at the untidy kitchen, then 
at Phemy, crouched in an attitude of self-condolence, 
her handkerchief up to her mouth. The girl's 
cheeks were flushed a little, and there were dark 
circles about her eyes. She was looking really ill, 
despite her obvious attempt to make the worst of it. 

Fan glanced at her with the contempt of healthy 
youth for other people's minor ailments. 

"What's the matter with you?" she demanded. 
"Is your head aching? Where do you feel sick?" 

"I don't know r 

"You must know ! I should think you'd better get 
up off that chair and go and sit nearer the window. 
I'll do the dishes." 

"I dasn't move. I'm awful bad. I'm sick at my 
s-stomach !" 

"What made you sick?" Fan pursued ruthlessly. 

"I don't know. I guess it was the coffee. I turned 
awful sick soon's I touched it. I couldn't eat any 
breakfast an' my head all went round. I guess I'm 
. . . awful ill!" 

Fan's tone softened a little. 

"Wouldn't you rather go home?* 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 187 

"No. I— don't want to." 

A sudden furtive look came into her blue childish 
eyes. She dropped her head in her hands again. 
"I . . . just wanter stay quiet." 

"Well, you won't get any better sitting all hunched 
up that way! Why don't you go in the parlour and 
lie down awhile! There isn't anyone there. I'll see 
to all these. Were you sick when you left home?'* 

''No. I . . . guess it was the smell of the coffee." 

Fan went to the sink and filled the dish-pan. As 
she reached across the table to gather the china to- 
gether her hand touched a tumbler that was pushed 
away on the opposite side, where Phemy had been 
sitting. She picked it up and sniffed at it. Her eyes 
met Phemy's sharply. 

"Did you have this?" 

"Y-yes." 

"No wonder you talk about feeling sick at your 
stomach! Did Mrs. Sales give it to you?" 

"Y-yes. She . . . said it'd s-settle me." With 
Fan's eyes upon her she began to whimper defensively. 
"An' you needn't 1-look like that either! I guess if 
you felt as bad as I do you'd take anything too !" 

Fan turned to her dish- washing, plunging her hands 
decisively into the water. 

"I guess if I couldn't stand a little sickness like 



i88 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

other people without having to take brandy I 
wouldn't want to talk about it !" 

Her contempt, which was in reality far more for 
Mrs. Sales than the girl, made itself brusquely 
evident in her voice. Phemy began to feel herself 
ill-used. Deep in her heart she still admired Fan 
more than anyone else. She caught her breath 
hysterically. 

"Mrs. Sales is nice to me anyway. She's n-nicer 
than you are ! I think you're awful mean, Fan. You 
don't care how bad anybody is. Maybe you'd rather 
me be s-sick an' d-die " 

"You am't going to die. When you do you won't 
be making such a fuss about it. Stop crying, Phemy. 
I'm not mad at you. I only think it's a pity you 
haven't got some sense, even if Mrs. Sales hasn't. 
How many times has she given it to you before?" 

"Only . . . once or t-twice." 

The words came out guiltily. Fan's face hardened. 

"Don't let on I told you ! I wouldn't have touched 
it, only I felt bad." 

"I'm not going to. If you felt ill why couldn't 
you have told me?" 

"You wouldn't have cared if I had! Mrs. S-Sales 
said so." 

How much of the story was real Fan had no means 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 189 

of telling. She restrained a strong impulse to pick 
Phemy up and shake the truth out of her. 

"Does your mother know how many times Mrs. 
Sales has been giving you brandy because you thought 
you felt ill?" 

"I don't know. I guess she wouldn't care. You 

talk's if it was something wicked, Fan. She's given it 
to me herself sometimes." 

"Brandy? Don't sit there and tell me such liesT 

"Fan, you're awful mean 1" 

"Are you going to tell her?" 

Fan waited inexorably, dish-cloth in hand. 

"Are you going to tell her about it or would you 
rather I did?" 

"Fan, if you let on *' 

"I thought so," said Fan grimly. She rinsed a cup 
out and set it down on the table. "If I did what 
was sensible I should go over and tell her the whole 
story now. I'm not sure I shan't." Phemy knew 
perfectly well she wouldn't, but she started whimper- 
ing again. "Stop crying; there's no good making 
yourself worse. And don't for heaven's sake sit and 
look like that! I guess you am't going to be any 
sicker than you are now. You'd better go up to my 
room and lie down till dinner-time, and then if you 



190 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

don't feel any better you can go home. I'll come up 
presently and see how you are." 

Phemy got up and crossed the floor dizzily, hold- 
ing to the table-edge as she went. She paused 
half-way, and the furtive look flickered beck mo- 
mentarily in her eyes. 

"And you — ^won't let on to mother. Fan ?" 

Fan pretended to hesitate. 

"Very well," she said at last. 

"Not a word — ^not about me bein' sick nor noth- 
ing? Cross yourself that you won't. Fan!" 

Fan complied with the old girlish formula, me- 
morial of school recesses and sworn secrets, half 
smiling, half impatient at the triviality. Phemy 
watched her earnestly, and a look of relief came 
into her blue eyes. 

"Honest to Grod?" she persisted. 

"Honest to God. Now run along, Phemy, and 
don't be a little goose any more." 

And Phemy went, sniffing. 



XVI 

ONE morning, when Fan walked down for the 
mail after breakfast, she found Dolly Harding 
and her brother outside the store, pumping up the 
tire of Jack's wheel. They had met once or twice 
in the village since the evening at the drug-store, and 
Dolly hailed her now gaily as she came down the 
road. 

"Hello, Miss Tasker! Good morning. We've been 
all way round by the upper bridge and Jack got a 
puncture coming home. I believe Jack simply revels 
in punctures; he's always having them. Isn't it a 
lovely morning? It's going to be scorching presently. 
Did you come down after your mail?" 

Jack was on his knees in the dust, very red-faced, 
and working heroically with a hand-pump while his 
sister sat on the porch-step above him looking on. 
She always let him do all the work on principle. 
She domineered over him to an extent which never 
seemed to interfere with their friendship; they were 
the most frankly devoted couple Fan had ever come 

191 



192 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

across, though their expressions of affection always 
took the form of insults. 

"Isn't he poky? Fd have had that done in half 
the time." 

"Come and do it, then, smartyl" growled Jack 
from the roadside. 

"Not me ! It's good for you to work. You'd get 
too fat; everyone says so. You live up the road 
here, don't you, Miss Tasker?" she went on. "We 
passed the house the other day, and we yelled and 
waved like anything, but I guess there wasn't anyone 
home. Say, when are you coming to our place ?" 

"Oh, some day," Fan smiled. 

"I think you might. Mr. King's been over twice. 
Don't you like him? I think he's just great. He 
was sta)dng the same place we were last year, and 
we had more fun. . . . He's clever, too; that's why 
I like him. Jack, if you chortle, I'll throw this pimip- 
kin at you. Don't you think he is?" She galloped 
on without waiting for an answer. "He can write 
awfully well, when he likes. He's had things in the 
Vagabond. Father says he don't know his own 
value, and as he don't find it out, he's all right. 
Father thinks a lot of him. He says he'll do big 
things some day when he leaves off wearing other 
people's clothes. I asked him what he meant, and he 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 193 

wouldn't tell me. That's just like father. He's an 
awful tease." 

**I think he's very clever," said Fan. 

"Oh, he is. But father's always saying things 
like that about people. I guess I do know what he 
meant, too, don't you? And he says that when 
Mr. King grows up he'll be a lot younger. He said 
that to him the last time he was at our house — ^they 
were arguing about something — ^and Mr. King said : 
*Oh, most probably!' You know the way he says it, 
and father just laughed and laughed." 

Fan laughed too. In future years that phrase 
would always bring King to her mind more clearly 
than anything else ; it was so exactly himself. 

"Your father's very clever, isn't he?" she said. 
"I've hear Mr. King speak of him a great deal." 

"He's a dear!" said Dolly promptly, and the ex- 
pression conveyed everything. "I do wish you'd 
come over, and you'd say so too. Father isn't a bit 
old. He's as young as — as Jack! I don't believe 
he'll ever grow old as long as he lives." 

Fan walked home, thinking. Much as she liked 
Dolly, she was conscious of a jealousy, where King 
was concerned, of anyone who had known him 
longer than she had. Whenever she thought of his 
outside life, his friends, his associations, she had the 
same empty feeling, a sense of loneliness and resent- 
o 



194 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

mcnt. Dolly, with her childish ways, her slang, her 
impulsive friendliness, was of another and different 
world than her own, and it was King's world too. 
It claimed him; he belonged to it; he had only 
drifted into her own as a chance stranger, and she 
knew that, strive as she would, the gulf was always 
there. It was a different standard, a different point 
of view. She could never be like these people; her 
upbringing, her environment, all were against her. 

Walking back along the roadside, the drenched 
glittering weeds brushing her skirt, the fresh blue 
stunmer morning about her, she thought it all over, 
and felt the difference more keenly than she had ever 
done before, brought home to her by Dolly's heedless 
chatter. There were two sets of people in the world — 
the people who were nice, who had nice things about 
them, and the people who never had and never would. 
It was a difference deeper than the mere difference 
between riches and poverty; mere money could 
never bridge it. King, in a way, was poorer than 
herself. It was so hopeless trying. She felt a savage 
resentment against her own surroundings, the things 
that hemmed her in. She had put up a big bluff this 
summer, and what was the good of it all? She knew 
that everything in her own life was mean and 
horrid and commonplace, and no amount of trying 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 195 

made it better. And she hated it; she hated the 
' world, she hated everything. 

The house, when it came in sight at the bend of 
the road, struck her afresh with a sense of hopeless- 
ness. The fence with its peeling whitewash, the 
neglected garden, the chickens scratching in the 
sand, the ugly signboard over the porch. . . . 
Once these things didn't seem to matter, but now 
she saw it all critically, as with the eyes of a 
stranger — ^the shiftlessness, the commonness. The 
very fact of its familiarity made her view it now 
with the greater dislike, condemn it more ruthlessly. 
She wondered King had stayed on as long as he 
had. She thought how it must have struck him, 
the first time he ever saw it; things had been worse 
then even than they were now. 

In the parlour, with the shutters partially closed, 
Mrs. Sales sat at the piano, playing the "Maiden's 
Prayer." She played it with a great deal of ex- 
pression, the bass parts very loud and the treble 
slow and soulful. Her face held a kind of placid 
childlike ecstacy and enjo)mient. Her cotton wrap- 
per, soiled and tumbled, gaped in front, revealing 
an elaborately trimmed under-garment and no cor- 
sets. There was a half-emptied whiskey tumbler 
on the piano in front of her. 

She turned listlessly as Fan came in. 



196 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

'Was there any maU?" 

*'One— for you." 

Fan threw an envelope, addressed in violet ink, 
down on the table. "This room's close! I should 
thing you might have had the windows open." 

She went over and threw open the shutters on the 
farther side of the room impatiently, letting in the 
sunlight The room reeked, as it always did nowa- 
days, of spirits and stale tobacco and the faint sickly 
perfume of violet sachet. Mrs. Sales reached out in- 
dolently for her letter. 

"My, but it's hot !" she remarked as she broke the 
seal. 

"Hotl I should think it was hot, with the place 
like a pigsty !" 

"Well, and who keeps it like a pigsty? I ain't 
responsible for the house, am I? I ain't the one 
that's always fussin' an' complainin' !" The woman's 
voice rose in a nervous pitch of argument. 

Fan made no answer. Her glance fell on the reek- 
ing whiskey tumbler, and she swept it up with a 
quick gesture of disgust and carried it outside. 
When she came back Mrs. Sales said : "You're get- 
ting mighty fussy all of a sudden, am't you? I 
can remember the time when you wasn't quite so 
damn partic'lar about the way the house was kept !" 

"I guess no one likes to come into a parlour at 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 197 

ten o'clock in the morning and find it smelling of 
whiskey." 

"Then keep out of it," said Mrs. Sales. 

She lounged back in the chair, watching the girl 
as she moved about the room, perfunctorily putting 
things to rights. 

"Seems to me you think nothings quite good 
enough for you an' your friends nowadays. If you 
want the place decent, why don't you keep it decent, 
instead of lolling round the woods all day with that 
stuck-up red-headed city dude!" 

Fan said nothing. It seemed that she had set her 
lips resolutely against retort. Her gaze fell on a 
book that was lying on the table. It was one of 
King's that he had lent her; it had his name on the 
frontispage, above the author's signature. Someone 
had put down a wet glass on the cover, leaving a 
circular stain. 

"Look at that!" she exclaimed. 

"What's the matter with it?" 

Mrs. Sales lounged over to the table, hitching her 
wrapper about her. 

"Guess it ain't hurt so much. If you don't want 
your things spoiled you should take better care of 'em." 

"Who had it out?" cried Fan angrily. "I left it on 
the bookshelf and no one had any right to touch it." 

"Maybe I did. Let's see." 



198 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

She stretched out her hand, but Fan snatched the 
book up before her. Mrs. Sales laughed irritatingly. 

"S'pose you think I'll dirty it! I don't want 
your ^books! Fat lot of good may they do you!" 

"You had no right ever to touch it!" Fan said 
again. 

"I reckon I've got as much right to touch things 
around this house as anyone, come to that." 

"You !" Fan flung at her. 

"Yes, me! And if you don't like it you can do 
the other thing. You think you're mighty smart, 
but " 

"You have no right in this house at all, and you 
know it!" 

"Haven't I? Why don't you tell your father to 
turn me out?" she jeered. "Why don't you? I 
would if I was you. You know you daren't!" 

Standing with the ruined book in her hand, Fan 
could have cried for sheer nervous rage. It was the 
little thing that had turned the balance, the last straw 
to the summer's burden. Her father came into the 
room, stopping short at the doorway. 

"What's the matter?" he asked. 

At the appearance of Tasker, Mrs. Sales relapsed 
from her aggressive attitude. She became injured, 
mournful. 

"Oh, nothin' much! She ain't quite satisfied with 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 199 

the way the house is run, that's all. She don't like 
to come down in the mornin's an' see cigar-ash on 
the parlour mantelshelf. She don't like people drinkin' 
whiskey an' smokin', and there's a few little things 
ain't quite as fancy as what she's accustomed to, an' 
she thinks maybe she could keep the parlour more 
like the White House at Washin'ton if you and I 
didn't use it to sit in in the evenin's." Her tone 
changed abruptly. "She think's I ain't quite good 
enough for her 'n her city friends, John, and that's the 
root of it! She don't approve of me, an' she don't 
approve of my ways. She's God Almighty, she is, 
an' I ain't quite good enough to lick the dirt of her 
shoes ! Comin' in here with her damned " 

Tasker turned on his daughter. 

"What have you been saying?" 

"Oh, just a few little things like she always does — 
when you am't round. Throwin' it up to me that 
I ain't just what I should be. Why don't you speak. 
Fan, an' tell your father some of the things you say 
behind his back? Now's your chance. Why don't 
you tell him you don't like me stayin' in the house, 
an' you'd rather I went back to the city? Or are 
you too much of a hypocrite to open your mouth?" 

She had the advantage, and she pursued it ruth- 
lessly. She had nothing to fear. She didn't mind 
what she said, how far she degraded her own name 



200 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

and Tasker's, exposed the household nakedness, and 
Fan did. The girl set her teeth. Blind hatred was 
surging within her. She Ufted her eyes to Mrs. 
Sales' face. 

"That's the way she looks at me. Do you see it? 
Me that's tried to be friendly with her ever since 
I come to the house ! But I don't care, John ; I'll go 
back. I'll go this day. I won't stay to be insulted 
by a girl that's no better than I am, if the whole 
truth was known. She's always wanted to drive me 

out, with her ^sneering ways, an* now she can 

do it I I won't stay • . . not another hour " 

She collapsed into a chair and began to cry, 
pulling out her lace-edged handkerchief. It was as 
if a stout and amiable elephant should suddenly 
dissolve into tears over the insecurity of its position. 
Tasker, lounging against the door-frame, flushed with 
a contorted sense of chivalry. His eyes were blue 
and hard as he advanced into the room. 

"I want to know what you said?" 

"She s — s-said the p-parlour was a pigsty just 
because I s-sat in itl" 

Fan found her voice at last. 

"I said I couldn't keep the house decent, and neither 
I can, as long as she does everything she can to mess 
it up ! I think it's hard, father. I try my best to keep 
things nice *' 



THE PRICE OE YOUTH 201 

"And who's asking you to keep things nice?" said 
Tasker. He had raised his voice a little, and it was 
ominously level. "Who's asking you ? Fmnot! The 
house is good enough for me the way it is, and if it's 
good enough for me, it's good enough for you and your 
friends. And it had better be, too, do you hear me? 
If Mr. King doesn't like the way things are run around 
here, I'm not keeping him. He can pay me his board 
bill he owes three weeks on, and go somewhere else. 
And as for you " 

He turned on her savagely, swaying a little as he 
stood. "Who do you think you are, anyway? I'm 
master in this house, by God, and no one else is, and 
I want you to know it! What I say goes!" He 
brought his hand down heavily on the table. "And as 
long as I'm master I intend that you shall keep your 
tongue off of what don't concern you, and be civil to 
my guests under my roof. You're as bad as your 
mother was, thinking you're too fine to be touched or 
spoken to! I didn't stand it from her, and by God I 
won't stand it from you! You am't mistress here. 
And I don't want no back talk about it, either. Do 
you understand me? Now shut your mouth, and get 
out!" 

She turned, her head erect, out through the open 
door and across the yard to the pine-woods. She 
wanted to get away from the house, anywhere, out of 



202 THE PRICE OE YOUTH 

sight, out of hearing. Mrs. Sales' sobs, gradually as- 
suming reassurance, followed her as she went. It was 
the commonness, the vulgarity ... she felt as if she 
had been dragged through the dirt. If her father had 
struck her she would have minded it less. A chair, 
pushed hastily aside, scraped on the porch. King had 
been sitting there; he must have heard every 
word through the open window. Well, it didn't 
matter. • • • 

She walked blindly, not looking where she was going, 
till her hand struck against a pine tree in her path. 
She stopped then, clinging to it, as though the contact 
had broken some hypnotic spell that was on her, and 
putting her wrist up buried her face against it, and 
broke into hopeless sobbing. She cried with the shud- 
dering restraint of one to whom tears come seldom, 
each sob jarring her through and through, deepening 
her defeat, sweeping away her last rag of self-respect. 
In her overwrought condition she scarcely heard steps 
behind her, the dry pine-needles crunching under a 
man's tread, and it was not until King came up close 
and touched her shoulder that she realised he had fol- 
lowed her. 

"Fan " 

She lifted a hard, flushed face to him. 

"Won't you go?" she said tensely. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 203 

"No, I won't go," he said, looking at her. "I won't 

go till I' e talked to you. I want " 

Her head went down on her wrist again. He could 
see her whole body shrink and quiver under the stress 
of her sobs. There was something sacred in the wit- 
ness of her broken pride, the utter self-abasement of 
her shame. He hated to stand and watch her, and he 
wasn't going to leave her; he kept his ground 
doggedly, turning away until she should recover 
herself. 

A tiny pine-cone lay on the ground near him. He 
put out one foot and crushed it into the ground, tread- 
ing down each fragment slowly, with the careful at- 
tention one gives to irrelevant details in a crisis. She 
raised her head again at last, and faced him. She 
had left oflF crying, and her eyes were swollen and red- 
rimmed. 
"You were there," she said. "You heard?" 
"Yes, I — ^heard. I couldn't help hearing." 
"And you know that I told you a lie ?" He opened 
his mouth, but she put up her hand to silence him. 
Leaning back against the tree, her young figure 
drawn to its full height, she seemed to get back her 
dignity all at once, the dignity of despair. "1 lied 
to you," she said slowly, "and I meant to. I told 
you she was my aunt, and I thought you — wouldn't 
have to know. I wanted to keep you from ever find- 



204 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

ing out the truth. Now you know, and you know 
I lied to you and — and I guess that's all there needs 
to be said about it !" 

» "No it isn't, either !" He came a step nearer. 'TDo 
you suppose I didn't know all along? I knew the 
first evening she was in the house. You told me a 
lie, and I respected you for it. And I wouldn't ever 
have said a word if it hadn't been for to-day. Look 

here " He put his hand on her shoulder again, 

and this time she did not shake it off. Instead, she 
put her own to her face, and he caught them and drew 
them down gently. "Fan," he said, "I want to be 
a friend to you. I want to • . . help you. Why can't 
you trust me?" 

"I — do trust you. And you're the first real friend 
I ever had, and that's why . . ." She broke off, 
biting her lip. "Why didn't you go, when you 
knew ?" she asked curiously. "Why did you want to 
stay on, in the — ^the sort '* 

"Because it wasn't any of my business!" he said. 
"It didn't concern me. Good heavens, do you think 
I cared? For two pins, I'd have gone in this morning 
and told that man " 

"He's my father," said Fan quietly. 

"I know he is. Unfortunately that doesn't appear 
to prevent his being a blackguard." 

"It prevents us calling him so." 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 205 

She began to laugh bitterly. "Oh, there's humour 
in it! My God . . ." She turned to him again. 
"You've lived in the house — ^you know what it's like. 
You know how we get along together. It's a pretty 
sort of family party, isn't it? And the neighbours all 
know; they talk it over. It's the standing topic of 
scandal for them, and they never get tired of it, and 
now you know why I hate them the way I do! I 
hate everyone of them ! You know ever3rthing now ! 
You know why I wouldn't ever go to the Hardings' 
house when they asked me. How could I? How 
can I ever go amongst decent people, go to their houses 
or have them here? I could have made lots of 
friends in the village, people that came down here 
to stay, if it wasn't for that. But how can I do 
it?" 

She caught one of the low-hung branches in her 
hand, stripping off the green, sticky needles nervously, 
and pulling them apart. King let her go on talking; 
he knew better than to check her. 

"It began just after mother died. She used to 
come to the house then, but I never knew. I never 
thought anything till one evening . . . and then 
father sent me away to school, and when I came back 
things were the way they are now, and they've been 
ever since. I began to hear how the neighbours 



2o6 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

talked. They talked fast enough! It didn't matter 
to them that I was Tasker's daughter, and it all came 
back to me. Jersey's about the meanest place in tfie 
world, and God knows it^ and that's why He made 
the people just like it. I hated it at first I hated to 
go down in the village; to go to the store after the 
mail. Now I've got so, I don't care. What's the 
good I And then you came down, and I thought 
maybe I could keep things so you wouldn't hear. And 
I could, if she hadn't come down. She's never 
stayed here in the stmimer before. Last year she 
stayed at Monterey the whole time. And . . . that 
isn't the worst of it. I suppose you know he • • • 
drinks?" 

"I guessed so." 

"It don't take much guessing! Well, she keeps 
him from it, in a way. You wouldn't think she 
would, but she does. He was . . . like that to-day, 
or he'd never have talked to me the way he did. But 
he's always better when she's round. He hardly drank 
at all, all last winter, when she was down here. She's 
got influence over him where I haven't, and she knows 
I know it, and that's the pull she has over me. If it 
wasn't for that I wouldn't stand half I do. She's got a 
good influence over him, and that's the f uimy part. Oh, 
it's all funny ! Sometimes I think if God has any sense 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 207 

of humour He must have a good great time looking 
on at folks!" 

She watched the last pine-needle drop to the ground 
between her restless fingers, joining the others that 
made a criss-cross pattern of green on the dead 
brown. 

"Haven't you any people?" King asked, after a 
moment. 

"Not one. And a lot of good they'd be if I had 1 
I guess they'd turn out like everyone else. My 
brother went away. I told you he quarrelled with 
father. Well, now you know what it was about. 
He cared for my mother like I did. He went out 
West, and he always said he'd write for me to come 
out, when he got settled and I left school ; but I guess 
he's forgotten. I don't know that it matters any- 
how." 

She lifted her eyes, looking at the branches over- 
head, a still blue-green against the sky, and her face 
was hard. When she lowered them again she said 
abruptly : 

"Well, what are you going to do? I guess you 
won't want to stay on here any more?" 

"Why?" 

"Because it's . . . different. Oh, you can't." 

She could not have defined the difference, but it was 



2o8 THE PRICE OE YOUTH 

clear in her own mind. So long as the fabric of 
her lie had stood between them it was all right; she 
could hold to her self-respect. Now it was broken 
down, a trampled screen, and everything lay bare 
and mean and naked, exposed pitilessly to view like 
the dead strewn pine-needles under her feet. There 
would be no use pretending any more. She could 
keep it up, so long as there was a reason, but now 
the reason was gone. They could no longer go on 
in the same way, meet on the same ground. He 
would feel it too, just as she did, when he came to 
think. . . . Their friendship would have to go. It 
was the biggest thing she had given up yet, but it 
would have to go. God might have let her have this 
summer out, but God never let one have the things 
one wanted. . . . 

She turned, and saw him looking at her. 

"Why not?" he said again. 

"Why not? Do you think I haven't any pride left! 
Do you think I'd want to have you stay — ^that I'd let 
you? Not if. . . ." 

She had almost said: "Not if I cared for you a 
hundred times more than I do!" The words had 
been so nearly on the lips that, with the sudden check, 
the blood flew hotly to her face. Instinctively she 
averted her head, and it was the gesture of an animal 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 209 

self-trapped. But it was too late. The meaning of 
the pause, if not the words themselves, had flashed 
out on the air between them. 

There was a silence while she could have counted 
the dead needles ticking to the ground, the hundred 
tiny breathing sounds in the woods about them. 
Something tightened in her throat, crept and tingled 
through her body. It was as if a new life woke in 
her heart, a new voice spoke to her, the eternal 
universal voice of youth, of the living, restless world, 
of all that was ugly, all that was beautiful. She, 
too. . . . 

"Fan," he said. 

She did not want to look at him, but she had to, 
and when she saw his face it, too, was strange to her, 
and all the stmimer's rhythm drew to meaning. He 
held out his hands, and she went to him resistingly, 
step by step, drawn by the new unspoken command 
within her. It was the last breaking of her pride, the 
final giving-in of her freedom. So she went till their 
hands touched, and with the touch all was suddenly 
plain to her. His arms slipped about her and drew 
her close. 



xvn 

A UGUST deepened into September, and a first 
-/a. hint of fall showed in the woods. The sweet- 
fern turned to russet, and golden red bloomed every- 
where along the roadside. Distances softened into 
purple. On still afternoons, borne across miles of 
country, one could smell the burning of far-oflf forest 
fires. Day after day the shadow of smoke hung like 
an autumn haze far out over the sky, and the sun set 
in a red solid disk behind the pines. 

Fan and King went for long drives over coun- 
try roads. Men had beg^n work at the limekilns, 
and out of the dark sea of pine woods white columns 
of smoke rose here and there straightly on the air. 
They passed orchards laden with apples, l3ring 
scattered shiftlessly, or raked into heaps under the 
trees ; fields where com fodder stood bound in shocks 
and big yellow pumpkins dotted the brown, stubbly 
earth. Now and again, in low-lying places, swamp 
maple burned, a pure isolated flame of scarlet. 
Among the young saplings and undergrowth were 

210 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 211 

misty tints of delicate pink and emerald, hues rather 
of spring than autumn; hints as of new sap stirring 
in stems and branches. Only the pines remained the 
same, dense and sombre, unchangeable through all 
seasons. 

With Fan it was spring; the spring-time of life 
and youth. She looked on the country round as one 
who has no heed of winter; it reflected for her only 
her own unthinking happiness. She found a joy in 
the autumn colours, the autumn scents. Common 
things held a new and rare pleasure. She flung 
herself into life as though she had never lived be- 
fore, grudging each hour that was spent, clinging to 
each that came, in the supreme reckless selfishness of 
happiness. September spilt the summer's gold on 
field and roadside, filled the air with wine and song, 
and the cadence of it was in her blood. She gave 
herself up body and soul to the place and the moment. 

Nothing else mattered. Everyday things were 
meaningless. She let her whole life slip, not caring 
what happened, what might happen. She wanted 
nothing but the present. God didn't give things for 
long, and He didn't give them twice. She would hold 
with glad hands what was hers, travel the road while 
she could, not caring where it led. Life was good, 
and she was just beginning to find it out 



212 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

King was not in any sense the devoted lover. She 
didn't want fiim to be. She was content simply to 
be witE him, to have him near her. He told her 
about his life, his friends, his work in the dty. He 
sketched the great newspaper office for her, its stress 
and tension, its machine-like impersonal routine. He 
described the big room at night, with the noise of the 
city's sleeplessness borne in through the opened win- 
dows, and the shirt-sleeved men sweating at their 
desks under the green-shaded electric lamps ; the babel 
of the compositors' room upstairs, the hurrying to 
and fro of feet in wide corridors, and the last dogged 
rush before the paper went to press ; the final jar and 
rumble of the huge machines in the basement. He 
told her about the men he worked with, till she felt that 
she knew them all intimately, Rossinger and Curtice 
and little Harker, who could write the best prose of 
anyone on the staflF, and never kept a job for more 
than two months. He forgot his diffidence, and talked 
to her about his ambitions, his hopes, his failures. He 
hated newspaper work; he wanted to get away from 
it, to be free, to make a name for himself in the 
world. 

"Journalism isn't a profession," he said in one of 
his least original moments. "It's a living, except to 
the few that are mad for it I'm not. I haven't an 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 213 

inch of the journalist instinct in me. That's why I 
don't get on. I've found it out by degrees. When 
I can see my way to something different I shall throw 
up the whole deadly business, and thank God for the 
chance." 

"If I were a man," said Fan, "I'd rather be on a 
newspaper than an)rthing else. Think of the things 
you see " 

"The things you see and touch and can't handle 
the way you want to. It takes all the best from a 
man, and leaves him no further than where he was 
when he started. You arn't an individual ; you're just 
one little cog in a big machine, and you can hang on 
to the machine or drop out." 

"You don't like it?" 

"I hate it," he said. "I've seen what it's done to 
other men ; I know what it's doing to me." 

"I think it's great. I think just that feeling — ^£0 
know that you belong, that you count, that you're a 
living part of something bigger than you could ever 
be by yourself " 

"I shouldn't have expected that from you," said 
King. 

"Why not?" 

"Only that I shouldn't." 

She laughed. They were driving down a long 



214 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

slope of road, between stretches of rusted sweet-fern, 
and she touched the horse up with the whip. 

''We don't see things a bit the same, Willis, do 
we?" 

"Are you just beginning to find it out?" 

"No. I think I've found it out before— some things. 
I shouldn't get along with you if we were just alike. 
But I wish I had your chances. I wish I was a man. 

No, I don't, either " she added. "I used to, but 

I don't think I do any more." 

"Wise child!" 

"Don't be rude, little boy. The Lord made your 
face disagreeable enough without sneering. Turn 
around. Do you know you're getting more freckles 
every day? Every lie you tell a freckle comes out; 
that's what they used to tell me. Red-headed people 
must be bom liars." 

"How about you?" 

"My freckles all are on my nose. That shows the 
narrow limits of my capacity for untruth, compared 
with yours. Look, boy ; isn't there going to be a love- 
ly sunset 1" 

They had reached the top of the slope, and she pulled 
the horse in for a moment. Before them was a 
stretch of cleared land dotted with pine-stumps, 
and further, a ploughed field and a bit of pasture 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 215 

yellow with golden-rod. A row of pines, tall and 
sparse, stood back against the sky, and behind 
them the huge red sun showed as through bars of a 
prison. 

They watched it drop slowly behind the black fringe- 
like trees. 

"Isn't September good I" said Fan softly. 

The afternoon was nearly over, and she was feeling 
sorry, as she always did, that they were nearing home 
again. Out in the open air King always seemed to 
be nearer to her, to belong to her far more than he 
did in the house. He was diflferent; she couldn't ex- 
plain, but she always felt it. He was at his best out 
of doors. 

A waggon was coming at a snail-pace toward them. 
They could make out the black jolting shape of it 
through the dusk. 

"There's old Jakey Rose," said Fan. 

The waggon approached and passed them slowly, the 
decrepit roan horse turning out of its own accord. 
Jakey, in his indescribable blue jersey, sat hunched on 
the front seat. 

"Evening, Jakey 1" cried Fan, as the two teams drew 
abreast. 

"Evenin'." 

His blue inscrutable eyes, set in his wrinkled face, 



2i6 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

seemed to peer out at them malignantly from under the 
shadow of the waggon-hood. The sun caught his 
chestnut hair and beard and the little gold rings in his 
ears. He looked from King to Fan and from Fan 
to King, and chuckled^ a low reflective chuckle, like 
that of some unspeakably evil bird. 

A faint waft of stale fish reached them from the rear 
of the waggon. 

"I loathe that man," said King, abruptly. 

"So do I. Isn't it funny. Poor old Jakey! May- 
be, he isn't as bad as he makes himself out." 

"Anway, it's an indecency for a man his age to 
have chestnut hair. He is an affront to the laws of 
nature." 

"Laws of nature don't affect Jakey any I" Fan said. 
She laughed, but somehow this meeting with him, at 
the close of their drive, produced an unpleasant im- 
pression. He gave her a vague uncomfortable fore- 
boding. She had never liked Jakey, but at this mo- 
ment she absolutely hated him. His passing, like that 
of some unclean thing, seemed to have spoiled the 
afternoon. 

King looked back a moment later. Jakey was look- 
mg back too, twisting round with one hand on the 
waggon-seat to peer after them. 

They drove round by Mrs. Lyons' house; Fan 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 217 

had some early wild asters for her. She took them 
indoors while King waited outside. Presently Mrs. 
Lyons came out with her, and they stood awhile by 
the waggon to chat. She had taken off her apron, 
and in her greenish gingham dress she looked more 
like some faded old-fashioned flower than ever, as she 
stood smiling and nodding. 

"We met old Jakey, coming back along the Mor- 
ristown road," said Fan. "He looked younger than 
ever. Mr. King doesn't cotton to him any more than 
I do." 

"I guess there ain't nobody likes Jakey very much,*' 
said Mrs. Lyons, gently. It was the nearest approach 
to an unkind speech about anyone that she had ever 
made. 

After the waggon drove away, she stood in the door- 
way, holding her bunch of asters, and looked after 
them. 

"They don't act just like an engaged couple," she 
said to herself, reflectively. "I wish't I knew 1" 



xvm 

" T T come direct," said Mrs. PowelL "WUey seen 

1 'em, an' Wiley told the Pearces an' Mrs. Pearcc 
told Jakey. One o'clock in the mornin' there they was 
outside the Warwick Arms a-laughin' an' a-carryin' 
on, an' him goin' in fetchin' her drinks. Jakey said 
he couldn't 'a believed it, on'y Mrs. Pearce told him. 
An' I think if Tasker don't put his foot down pretty 
soon it's time someone else did." 

'1 don't believe the half of what Jakey says about 
anyone," said Mrs. Hewitt. 

"What would he want to be sayin' things about 'em 
for that wasn't so?" 

"Same reason he tells 'em about everyone else, I 
guess. Seems to me when a man's seventy-nine, an' 
gets bronchitis every winter regular, he oughter have 
something else to think about besides goin' round 
pickin' up all the tales he can about other people. 
Jakey's got so he don't know when he's tellin' the truth 
himself. He's nothin' but an old rattle-box. He 
hears s(»nething one place an' he goes an' spits it all 

218 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 219 

out at the next. I don't listen to nothin' Jakey says 
any more. He'd sell better fish if he kep' his mouth 
shut, an' so I told him last time he was round. I 
guess I ain't, dependent on Jakey to tell me people's 
doin's in Matehocken 1" 

"Well, Mis' Pearce told him, an' that's all I go by. 
Mis' Pearce don't make things up, if Jakey does. 
There they was, she says, outside the hotel, an' Wiley 
seen 'em." 

"What was Wiley doin' there?" Mrs. Hewitt in- 
terrupted. 

"Mis' Pearce didn't say. I guess he had business 
there, or he wouldn't a' been. Anyway, he seen 'em. 
He said he'd have known Tasker's team anywheres, 
if it hadn't been for her settin' in the waggon. I ain't 
one to make scandal, as you know, Mrs. Hewitt, an' 
if it had 'a been- any other place but Monterey I 
wouldn't have thought so much of it, seein' what Fan 
is." 

"I must say if it's so— an' I ain't believin' Jakey yet 
— ^that Fan did ought to have more sense than to go 
drivin' round Monterey at night. It ain't like any- 
where else, as you say; I should have thought she'd 
have known better, with all her craziness. An' I 
should have thought Tasker would have known better'n 
to let her." 



220 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"Tasker was up in the city. An' if you ask me, 
Tasker don't know the half of what goes on, no more'n 
the babe unborn. That girl ain't no good, Mrs. Hewitt, 
an' I've always said so, an' now I know. She's just 
got around Tasker. I used to be sorry for her, but 
now I ain't. She's just puUin' wool over his eyes 
night'n day." 

'If she can get ahead of him she's the first person 
ever did. I wouldn't take odds on no one pullin' wooK 
over Tasker's eyes myself. They'd have to get up 
mighty early to try it on." 

"That's as it may be. An' if you don't believe 
Jakey himself, maybe you'll believe what Vannote's 
sister-in-law over to Monterey told him. She says 
they come by her house that same evenin', an' they 
made such a noise they fetched her out of bed, an' 
they wanted to know the way to the town. An' she 
told 'em, civil as can be, an' she says they was carryin' 
on so outside the house, that time o' night, it fair 
scandalised her, an' she had to offer to turn the dog 
on 'em if they didn't get out of her front garden. 
Give her such a turn, she says, an' her alone in the 
house ; she ain't got over it yet." 

"Seems to me I've heard about Vannote's sister-in- 
law before," Mrs. Hewitt mused. "Ain't she the one 
there was that talk about with the feller that peddled 
watchchains at Monterey racecourse?" 



THE PRICE OE YOUTH 221 

'The peddler was her own second cousin, Mis' 
Hewitt." 

"I don't see that that makes it any better," returned 
Mrs. Hewitt mildly* 

"Well, if you won't see what's a-walkin' disgrace 
to the neighbourhood, I can't help it. I done my 
best," said Mrs. Powell truthfully. "No one can't 
say I didn't stand out for Fan as long as I could, but 
this last business beats all. I got my eyes open, an' 
wild horses won't make me say no diflferent. I knew 
the kind she was as far back as when she first come 
from school; but I made up my mind I wouldn't talk 
no scandal till I had to, an' no one can say fairer. Give 
her her chance, I says to everyone that asked me; 
give her her chance, an' we'll see. An' I reckon I've 
seen enough. Why, I used to let our Minnie go 
round with her one time, till I began to put two an 
two together, an' then I told her: 'If I see you 
havin' anything to say to Fan Tasker, I says, I'll get 
your Paw to whip you, big girl or no big girl ; an' if 
anyone ask you, I says, you can just tell 'em right out 
what I say 1'" 

"I didn't think that was on account of Fan," said 
Mrs. Hewitt. "I thought it was on account of Tasker 
an' . • . the house." 

"It was on accoimt of everything. Minnie's a good 



222 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

girl, an' I ain't goin' to have her learned no different 
from what she learns at home, an' I guess what she 
learns at home won't hurt her any. I've brought her 
up in a good atmosphere where there ain't no scandal 
talked an' none acted." 

Mrs. Hewitt thought of Minnie, a plain, ungainly 
girl, with all her mother's most aggressive character- 
istics sharpened and emphasised, and it was perhaps 
as well that her sense of humour had its limitations. 
She sighed, picking up the fashion journal Mrs. Powell 
had lent her to take home. 

"Well, Minnie's a real good girl," she said, "an' I 
don't know after all but what you done right." 

"I know I done right 1" said Mrs. Powell. 

Mrs. Hewitt was honestly opposed, in her own way, 
to gossip about anyone. She didn't believe what Mrs. 
Powell had told her, but it sank into her mind; and 
she thought it couldn't do any harm, since Jakey had 
spread the story already over the village, if she were 
to talk it over casually, and find out what other people 
thought So she mentioned it in a friendly way to 
Mrs. Allan, and Mrs. Allan mentioned it to Jinny Still- 
well, who had heard it before, and Jinny mentioned it 
to someone else. 

Five days later Phemy, leaving for her own home 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 223 

after supper, stood about for a few minutes awkwardly 
in the kitchen, with the constrained air of one waiting 
to make an explanation. 

"I just wanted to tell you, Fan," she said at last, 
"that mother says as she'd rather I didn't come over 
here to work any more, if you can make out without 
me. 

Fan was perhaps not entirely surprised. 

"Why, I'm sorry, Phemy," she said. "What's the 
matter? Is the work too much for you? You 
haven't been sick again, have you ? If the work's too 
much you might have found it out sooner and told 
me. 

Phemy shuffled. Her face went defiantly pink. 

"No, it ain't that — not altogether. Only there is 
lots of work, an' mother says I ain't strong enough for 
it, an' an)rway she'd — she'd rather I wouldn't come any 
more." 

Fan understood. She bit her lip. 

"Very well, Phemy," she said. "You do what you 
think best. I shall be very sorry to have you go, be- 
cause I liked havinglyou, and I think you liked coming, 
but I guess as far as the work goes we can get along 
all right without you. I think I've always treated you 
pretty well, haven't I ?" 

"Yes, it ain't that, Fan. I wanter stay on, on'y 
mother, she'd — she don't think I'd oughtcr/' 



224 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"Very well," said Fan again. "Then yon won't 
come to-morrow?" 

"N-no." 

"You left your apron here. Will you send for it, 
or take it now ?" 

"ni— take it now." 

She rolled it up, and escaped precipitately. 

At another time Fan would have felt her going 
rather more keenly. But just at present nothing mat- 
tered to her very much. She said to King the next 
morning, with an odd curve at the comers of her 
mouth : 

"Phemy isn't coming here to work any more. Her 
mother says she doesn't think the place agrees with 
her." 

King smiled. 

"I guess the place can get along right without her, 
can't it?" 

"I guess it can," said Fan. 



XIX 

FAN called him into the parlour one afternoon. 
She had a picture in her hand, a little miniature 
set in an old-fashioned frame. 

"This was my mother's picture," she sdd. "I 
thought maybe you'd like to see it." 

The portrait showed a pretty, girlish face, with 
brown hair drawn back from a centre parting, a mouth 
that curved trustfully and delicate colouring like a wild 
rose. King looked from the miniature to Fan, and she 
smiled. 

"I'm not like her a bit. I take after dad." 

"She must have been very pretty," King said. 

"She was when that was taken. It was before she 
was married, but it's the only one I have of her. It 
used to be in the parlour, and then I took it up to my 
room. I don't know whether dad missed it. He's 
never asked about it." 

"Do you remember her at all ?" 

"Oh, yes. I was eleven when she died, you know. 
But I don't remember her as so pretty then ; she had 
left oflF doing her hair that way. She used to wear it 
225 



226 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

straight 1)ack. But I like this. I like to tfainlc of her 
the way she used to be."* 

She took the picture upstairs again, and lodced it 
away in her bureau drawer. When she came down 
King was sitting out on the porch, and she joined him. 
In front of them the sun made dappled shadows across 
the clay yard, where some chickens were scratching 
and crooning, ugly half-g^own birds of the summer's 
brood, with gawky legs and impertinent eyes. The 
leaves of the cherry tree were turning colour in 
patches ; high up on its stem showed a white split, tri- 
angular in shape, where the dead limb had broken 
away. 

"Was your mother very young when she married?' 
King asked presently. 

"She was eighteen. It seems awfully young to me. 
She ran away from home. Her people all lived in 
Newark, and her father was a minister there. I don't 
think she had a very good time at home. She met 
dad at a church sociable or scmiething, and they ran 
away and got married two months afterwards. Her 
father didn't want her to marry him. I like her having 
done it, even if ... if she was sorry afterwards, 
I was going to say. I know it seems horrid to say that 
of one's parents." She coloured a little. "But I've 
thought things over sometimes. I think I can under- 
stand it, can't you?" 



THE PRICE OE YOUTH 227 

King thought he could, even though the connection 
of Tasker at any period with church sociables was 
quaintly incongruous. He had charm now when he 
chose. King could imagine, twenty years ago, the 
fascination which had drawn the eighteen-year-old 
girl — ^pretty, ignorant, impressionable, brought up in 
the narrow ways of a ministerial household — ^to throw 
in her lot with him. He could see, too, what perhaps 
Fan did not, the awakening that must have come as 
the glamour of romance wore off and she found her- 
self comparatively friendless, cut off from her own 
people, the wife of a saloon-keeper in a remote Jersey 
village. From what Fan had said of her mother at 
rare times he gathered that she and Tasker had not 
lived happily at the last, whatever they might have 
done in earlier days. He could see the girlish mouth 
losing its curves, settling into lines of hardness and 
resentment; the prettiness fading; the old ways one 
by one forgotten by the mind that had no longer 
tact or strength to hold the man she had once loved. 
The face of the miniature was not the one to hold its 
own for very long with a man of Tasker's nature, 
for King had a shrewd suspicion that Tasker, fifteen 
years ago, was much the same as now. There had 
probably been scenes in the commonplace drama that 
Fan knew nothing of, and that he hoped she never 
would. He felt glad, for her sake, that she had no 



228 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

later picture of her mother than die one in the toqr 
black frame. 

''I wonder if mother was like me at aU," she said 
now. "I often wish I knew. I guess she wasn't 
though. Maybe I'd have been a lot different if she'd 
lived." It was like her to add after a moment : 'Tm 
glad she didn't. It sounds horrid to say that, but I 
don't mean it horridly." 

"I think you're right, in some ways." 

He was thinking still of the face in the miniature. 

"I'm so glad you do," said Fan. "If I'd said fliat 
to some people they wouldn't have understood. But 
sometimes I feel such lots . . . older than mother 
somehow. I often wonder whether, when God puts 
people in the world, He plans things out about them 
really, or just lets them go ahead the best way they 
can. It would make such a lot of difference if one 
knew." 

"Don't you think the best way is just to go 
ahead?" 

"I don't know. I guess so." She sat with her 
chin on her hand, staring at the white gash on the 
cherry tree. 

"Do you know, boy, I made up my mind you 
were perfectly horrid that first evening you came 
down," she said after a while. "I thought you were 
priggish and self-opinionated, and I'd never get on 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 229 

with you in the world. I tried to present the worst 
side of everything so you wouldn't want to stay 
down." 

"It was a noble impulse, but it didn't work." 

"No, it didn't. That was my ignorance. If I 
wanted to be disagreeable to you now I should know 
better ways to set about it." 

"How?" 

"Do you think I'm going to give it away? I like 
to keep things in reserve. They will dawn upon you 
by degrees." She yawned in sheer contentment of 
the afternoon. "I feel dreadfully sleepy. There's 
a basket of peaches in the ice-chest. Don't you want 
to go and bring some out?" 

"All right." 

He got up and went indoors, whistling. A book 
lay face downward on the porch near his chair; she 
picked it up, and looked through the pages idly. 

Presently she heard steps on the gravel. A young 
man was coming round the path from the front of 
the house. He had yellow boots and a stiff Panama 
hat pushed to the back of his head, showing a curl of 
hair plastered knowingly down over his forehead with 
obviously studied effect. His whole air suggested a 
cheap city veneer, a kind of sophisticated swagger 
superimposed upon uncompromisingly rustic material. 
He was the type of youth that frequents country- 



330 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

town saloons and the corners outside post offices, and 
who would appear, but for a certain open-air bearing 
which no amount of conscious effort could successfully 
disguise, to have strayed from the counter of a third- 
rate metropolitan dry-goods store. He had a cigar 
gripped between tobacco-stained teeth, and his hands 
were thrust into his trousers pockets; he seemed to 
propel himself as much by them as by his feet. He 
lounged up to the porch, and set one of his yellow 
boots prominently on the lower step. 

"H'o, Fan V* he said carelessly. 

"H*o, Bert" 

Leaning back in the chair she regarded indifferently 
the hat he had not seen fit to remove. 

"I wanted to see the old man. Guess he's out, is 
her 

"I don't know." 

"Mis' Sales said he was." 

"Then he probably is," said Fan. "I guess you'd 
better come round in the evening, Bert." 

"I'd just as lieve wait." 

He shifted the cigar between his teeth, staring about 
him at the house windows. Then his gaze came back 
to Fan again, who appeared to have relapsed into ob- 
livion of his presence. He turned his head, and spat 
at the honeysuckle vine. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 231 

"Get bade from Monterey all right, th' other 
night?'' 

"Yes, thanks." 

"Mis' Sales told me you fetched home two o'clock 
in the morning." 

Fan said nothing, but her eyes narrowed a little 
watching him. 

"Gk)t lost, didn't you?" 

"That's my business." 

"You bet your life itisl" He laughed meaningly. 
"That's a good one, but I guess it don't go. Not 
around here it don't." 

"If you want to wait for my father," said Fan in a 
level voice, "you had better go round and wait in the 
bar." 

"Thanks. I'm your humble servant, but I guess 
I prefer to wait here, seein' it's all the same to you. 
Gettin' officious, ain't you?" He leaned forward 
with one foot on the porch-step. His face was 
flushed with the whiskey he had been drinking, and 
the smell of it hung on the air. "I tell you, Fan 
Tasker, you don't want to get off none of your airs 
on me. They don't cut ice any more, whatever they 
might a' done once. I come round here in a friendly 
way, an' you treat me as if I was the dirt under your 
feet! You're too hell-proud to reckemise me when 
we meet in public, an' when I come round here you. 



232 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

look at me s'if I was some dirty little wonn tliat 
hadn't any business speakin' to you. It ain't fair 
treatment" 

''If you don't like my manners you know what yoo 
can do." 

"I come round here to talk friendly, an' this is how 
you treat me. I reckon you think you've cottoned on 
to a good thing an' nothin' else signifies, but maybe 
you'll find out it ain't so good as what you think. I 
guess you know what the folks are saying in Mat- 
ehocken?" 

"They can say what they like." 

"They're doin' it, all right 1 Maybe Matehocken 
people ain't so smart as city people, but they dcm't 
keep their eyes in a woolsack, all the same — ^not 
when it comes to some things. Oh, it wasn't me 
told on you, an' it wasn't me told on your bein' at 
Monterey either 1 It was Jakey Rose, if you want 
to know. You can ask me how he come to know it, 
but he knew it, an' he's spread it all around, too. 
So if you want to lay for anyone you can lay for 
Jakey." 

Fan had not moved, but her figure seemed to 
straighten itself involuntarily at his words. But for 
this slight tension of the muscles, she might scarcely 
have heard him. Her eyes, fixed on him now, held 
less a consciousness of his actual presence than a 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 233 

vision of something happening a long way off, in which 
he was perhaps a factor. Under her slow gaze Ha- 
vens shifted uncomfortably, and the colour deepened 
in his face. 

"You don't believe me? All right. Jakey knows 
a few things, but I guess I know a few more, an* it's 
up to you whether they go any further. I've always 
stood your friend. Fan, an' you can't say I ain't An* 
I'm willin' to stay friendly still. Some fellers wouldn't 
a' put up with the half I have oflf of you. But I'm 
a good sort, I am, so long as folks treat me right. 
What?" 

"I guess you had your answer a year ago, Bert 
Havens." 

The restrained drawl in her voice might have been 
Tasker's own. An ugly light glinted suddenly in 
Haven's eyes. 

"Yes, I have, an' I ain't forgotten it — ^not by a long 
chalk 1 An' I guess you won't forget it either, by the 
time I get through. If it comes to tellin' things I 
guess I know a few little tales that'd make that city 
feller o' yours sit up all right. Maybe he's soft enough 
to believe anything you tell him. I suppose he thinks 
he's the only chap you ever got lost in the woods with. 
It'll sound pretty when he gets to hear of last sumr 
mer, won't it? Maybe you'll find he ain't quite so 
simple as what he looks.'' 



234 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

He had raised his voice; Fan knew how, through 
the screen-door behind her, every word must carry 
on the afternoon quiet of the house. Nemesis some- 
times forsakes the dignity of ancient conception for 
quaint forms. In this case, it took the form of a 
commonplace young man in yellow boots. If the 
summer world had rocked under her fett. Fan would 
perhaps have looked as rigidly nonchalant as she did 
now. 

"Is that all you want to say?** 

"No, it ain't I'm giving you one more chance, Fan. 
If I wasn't the kinder feller I am I wouldn't do it. 
I'm willin' to stand by you, an' I ain't askin' nothin' for 
it What's fair to one's fair to another, I reckon. 
You give me a kiss for old times and I'll keep my 
mouth shut" 

"When you've finished talking, perhaps you will get 
off the porch." 

"Maybe I will, an' maybe I won't I ain't just 
decided." 

"No?" 

Fan had heard the screen door open and close quietly 
behind her, but she never turned; only her fingers 
gripped the book she was holding. King barely gave 
time for an answer. He simply threw one look at 
Havens, then stepped forward, catching him by 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 235 

the collar, and twisted him backward oflf the 
edge of the step. The trick had knack in it; it 
took Havens at an unbalanced moment and sent him 
one way and his shiny Panama another. He landed 
by a contortion on his feet, glaring at King, who stood 
above him on the porch-step he had so unwamingly 
vacated. 

"Another time perhaps you will have the intelligence 
to do what you're told when you're told." 

"Who the hell are you?" 

Havens began to bluster in the semi-speechlessness 
of rage, his face an angry scarlet. 

"Now pick up your hat," said King in the same quiet 
voice, "and clear out of here." 

"I won't either! Not for you! Come down off 
that porch an' " 

King stood with his arms folded. 

"I don't intend to dirty my hands with you or 
anyone like you. But if you put a foot on this step, 
or attempt to address another word to Miss Tasker, 
I'll come down, and I'll give you the soundest thrashing 
you ever had in your life. Now get out 1" 

Fan had risen, white to the lips. She had never 
seen King angry before. The very quietness of his 
manner foreboded violence, and she had a swift wom- 
an's terror lest the affair would come to blows. She 



236 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

knew Havens' strength, and she knew who would get 
the worst of it She had no experience till then of 
the curious weight force of will can have against 
physical strength, the instructive dominance of the 
educated man over the uneducated. She caught her 
breath, waiting for what seemed to her the inevitable. 
King knew. He had dealt with this kind of man 
once before. The chances were about even, but they 
came out right. Havens blustered for a moment or 
two. Then he picked up his hat, and moved oflF sul- 
lenly down the path, cursing as he went. 

King watched him out of sight round the comer of 
the house. Then he turned to Fan. 

She was standing, pale still, her fingers gripping the 
window-ledge behind her. He looked at her, and 
under his look the colour came back slowly to her face, 
deepening to a flush. 

"That was the man who was outside the hotel at 
Monterey, wasn't it?" he said at last. 

"Yes." 

The book had dropped to the floor at her feet, and 
she bent down and picked it up with unsteady fin- 
gers. 

"It's Bert Havens," she said. "He wanted me to 
. . . marry him last year, and I wouldn't, and I 
suppose that's why he chose to make himself ugly." 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 237 

"I see." 

His gaze fell on a lessened trail of the honey- 
suckle, and he straightened it mechanically against 
the pillar. 

"I've wanted to ask you ^" he said deliberately, 

*'was it true that you knew the road that evening all 
the time?" 

"No, it wasn't." He glanced at her swiftly. "It's 
true that I knew it part of the way . . . when I 
told you I didn't. I took a turning I didn't know 
because we were having a good time and I didn't want 
lo get home so soon. And then I did get lost, and I 
didn't know the way till we got out on the Monterey 
road, and ^" 

"I see," he said again. 

She looked at him with guilty eyes. She had not 
heard just that tone in his voice before. 

"Maybe it wasn't a — ^nice thing to do, but it . . . 
didn't matter, did it? I didn't think it mattered. I 
just thought ... we were having a good time, 
and . • ." 

**Oh, no," said King. "No, it didn't matter." 

He turned from her, and went slowly mto the 
house. 



XX 

COMING back one morning by the short cut 
from the village, where she had been to settle 
the month's household accounts, Mrs. Hewitt overtook 
King. He had his wheel with him, but he was not 
riding it, and it struck her, even before she recog- 
nised his familiar grey suit, and the bend of his head, 
that no one but the eccentric boarder at Tasker's would 
be walking, on a hot September morning, pushing a 
bicycle with just that absentminded air of forgetting 
that it was a bicycle. She hastened her steps and 
came abreast of him just at the termination of the 
stone side-walk, by the new yellow meeting-house. He 
was walking slowly, his eyes bent on the grotmd, 
and she called his name twice before he turned 
round. ', . . 

"Good morning, Mr. Kingl I called you twice, 
an' I guess you was day-dreaming! I've just been 
down to the village. It was only yesterday I- was 
sayin' I wondered what had happened to you, we 
ain't seen you for so long. It must be three weeks 

238 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 239 

since you was round at the house last. I was 
beginning to wonder whether you were offended with 
me. 

She said it with the good-humoured laugh of one 
who knows contradiction to be unnecessary. She was 
out of breath from hastening, and she let him take 
the basket from her and sling it on the handle-bar of 
his wheel. 

"My, but you're looking well 1" she said as they fell 
into step along the footpath. "I was sayin' to Jim 
the last time you were by the house that you weren't 
the same feller that come down here three months ago. 
I wouldn't have believed three months could have 
made that difference in anyone. I remember the first 
night you came down you looked as if you had one 
toe in the next world, and didn't know whether you 
was ready to pull it back or go along after it. I guess 
there ain't much question about how Jersey suits 
you 1 I was just thinkin' ; it don't seem three months 
does it? The summer's gone dreadful quick. I 
suppose you'll have to be thinking of getting back to 
the city Uefore long." 

"In a week or so, I guess." He turned the bicycle 
aside, stepping after it to avoid a tuft of grass. 

"Well, you've had a good holiday anyway/' 

"Yes '* 



240 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

He answered in an abstracted way, and Mrs. 
Hewitt glanced at him shrewdly. Despite the physical 
improvement on which she laid such stress, the young 
man's face looked to her tired and worried. He 
had very much the air of a man who has something 
on his mind, and long practise in putting two and 
two together to make seven helped her to an easy con- 
clusion as to what it was. Reading the turn of his 
head, the restless trick of his hand in his pocket, she 
knew that he was deciding, against a characteristic 
reserve, whether he would consult her or whether he 
wouldn't. 

"It's a nice morning," she remarked, gazing about 
her. "I saw Fan Tasker drivin' by in the buggy 
just now. She was goin' over the river to Cedars- 
viUe." 

"Yes." 

"She's lookin' real well. But then she always does. 
I guess Fan never knew what it was to have a day's 
illness in her life. It seems so ftmny how quick folks 
grow up. I remember her when she was a little thing 
an' wore sun-bonnets, an' she used to play horses up 
an' down the road with Tom an' Joey. It just seems 
like yesterday." 

"I suppose so." 

Mrs. Hewitt waited. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 241 

King withdrew his hand from his pocket, and looked 
at it, and put it back again. 

"Mrs. Hewitt," he said, "I want to ask you some- 
thing, and I . . . don't just know how. Maybe 
you'll think it's a pretty queer question anyWay, but I 
wouldn't say it to anyone in the village but you. I 
want to know ... the truth about Fan." 

He finished abruptly, as though he wanted to get 
the words oflf his mind before he should recall them. 
Mrs. Hewitt looked gravely across the vacant building- 
lot, where some children were playing seesaw with an 
old plank laid across two wooden boxes. 

"I guess I know what you mean, Mr. King," she 
said. "You've been hearing the way some people talk 
around here." 

"Yes, I have, and — it doesn't seem to me it can be 
true, and I want to know. Of course, I haven't known 
Fan very long, but I've come to know her . . . 
pretty well, in the time, and it doesn't seem to 
me she's that sort of girl. I know she isn't, only — 
I've heard things," he went on steadily, looking at the 
swinging basket on the handlebar, "and I don't 
want to believe them, and it makes it awfully hard 
for me to know what's truth and what isn't. I know 
it sounds pretty mean to be talking this way at all, to 
anyone, but I know you like Fan, an' I don't think 

R 



242 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

you'd . . . believe things against her just because 
people said them any more than I would. Perhaps 
you wonder why I should say this at all, but — ^well, I 
guess you know I like her." 

"Yes," said Mrs. Hewitt. She wondered whether 
this frank young man imagined for an instant he was 
telling her news. . . 

"I like her," he went on, "and I hate to hear things 
said against her, and I hate not to be able to contradict 
them when they are said." 

Mrs. Hewitt sighed. It was really a sincere sigh. 
She was a scrupulous woman, and she had just now 
the consciousness of being placed in an uncomfortable 
and possibly awkward position, yet behind her re- 
luctance lurked some enjoyment of a chance which 
would give her all the pleasure of gossip with none 
of its reproach. She relaxed instinctively the usual 
briskness of her walk, looking straight ahead with re- 
flective gaze. 

"I don't think it's queer, Mr. King,** she began; 
"and in a way I'm real glad you've felt like sayin' 
what you did. It's worried me this long time past, 
seein' you're such good friends with Fan, that you 
shouldn't know the rights of what's said, an' I think 
you ought to. You've been down here so long you 
am't just like a stranger, an* I think it's only right 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 243 

you should know both sides of everything so you 
can make up your mind what to believe an' what not 
to. Tve known Fan a long while, an' I've always 
liked her, an' I've stood up for her lots of times when 
other folks hasn't. It don't take much to make talk 
in Matehocken, an' that's a fact, an' I guess what with 
one account an' another it don't do to credit too much 
of anything. I've always said myself that I didn't 
believe there's half the harm in Fan folks say there 
is, an' I always will say so; but I do know this, Mr. 
King, that's she's awful foolish an' awful headstrong, 
an' she does real cra2y things sometimes without 
stoppin' to think what people are likely to say. I 
think it's a thousand pities myself her father ever had 
her back here after she left school. She's a nice girl, 
an' there's the makin's of a real good woman in her 
if she was taken the right way. But she's just been 
let to run wild ever since Mrs. Tasker died, an' I guess 
that ain't the best trainin' for any girl. I suppose you 
know the sort her father is?" 

"I know that he's an out-and-out scoundrel," said 
King quietly, "but I don't see why that should have 
anything to do with her." 

"Of course it hasn't, in a way, and then in a way it 
has. I always blame the whole of Fan's foolishness 
on Tasker an' on no one else. If he was a different 



244 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

sort of man heM have brought her up different, an' 
diere wouldn't have been none of this fuss. I can't 
understand it in a way» because I know he thinks a 
lot of Fan, an' he's real fond of her. He paid an 
awful lot for her schoolin'. You'd think, being the 
sort of man he is, he'd have some sense about his 
daughter anyway, but he don't seem to. He don't 
seem to realise, or if he does he don't care. He's 
so queer. I don't make Tasker out a bit. He's 
awful strict some ways. He's never let her set foot 
inside the bar of an evenin', and he never will, an' 
yet he don't seem to care what sort of crazy things she 
does outside." 
"But, Mrs. Hewitt— you don't believe them?" 
"No, I don't, Mr. King. But Fan does do awful 
reckless things, an' when folks want to talk it's easy 
enough to tack a meanin' on to everything. Some- 
times I think she does things just to set people 
talkin*, an* that's the pity of it. An' she's the sort 
of girl you can't say nothin' to; she's Tasker's 
daughter down to her boot-soles. I tried it once, 
because I liked her mother an' I like her, an' I felt 
sorry for her, an* she ain't forgiven me for it yet. It 
was last fall, an* there was some soldiers stayin* 
across the river here in autumn camp, an* she got 
talkin* with one of 'em one night along the road, an* 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 24S 

she gave him a lift in the buggy ; an' Jakey Rose saw 
'em, an' of course it was all over Matehocken the 
next day. Jakey's always had a grudge against Fan. 
An* I spoke to her then. I spoke real nice, but she 
got mad right away. She put her back up, an' she 
said, If my father doesn't criticise my actions, Mrs. 
Hewitt, I really don't see that you need. And if 
there was a few broader-minded people in Mate- 
hocken,' she said, *maybe I wouldn't be thrown 
upon strangers for companionship.' So that was all 
the good I done. They did say she used to meet 
him afterwards, but I never believed it. They get an 
awful queer lot down in the camps sometimes, an' 
I know Tasker wouldn't ever have allowed that. 
But it does show you how reckless she is. I don't 
think she knows half the times how crazy she does 
act." 

"But she isn't a child," said King vaguely. 

"No, she isn't, an' that's what makes it so queer. 
She is real childish some ways. One time I thought 
she never would grow up, but she's seemed to this 
last year, an' I've been hopin' she'd grow out of some 
of her tomboy ways." She was silent a moment. 
"I suppose you heard something about last stmimer, 
Mr. King?" 

"No," said King. He was thinking that he would 
rather not hear anything more just at present. 



246 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

''I thought maybe you had, the way you spc^e, or 
I wouldn't have brought it up. But as we are on to 
it, I think Td ought to tell you that there was a lot 
of talk about Fan last summer. I never heard all 
the rights of it myself, an' I never asked. But I fed 
you ought to know, because you're bound to hear of 
it some time, an' then maybe you'd rather I'd told 
you right out. There was an artist stayin' down here 
at the hotel, boardin' with 'em like you are; I don't 
know whether Fan spoke to you about him, maybe. 
He was a lot older than Fan, an' he took a fancy 
to her, an' they did used to be about a lot together, 
an' folks got to talkin'. I don't think myself there 
was anything in it at all, except that she liked bein 
with him an' she liked hearin' him talk. He was 
real clever, an' he'd travelled a lot, but I don't think 
from what I've heard he was a very nice man. He 
was one of these freethinkers, an' he had some 
awful queer notions. An* I do think he did Fan 
a lot of harm without knowin' it. He was an odd 
sort of man, an' nobody round here had much to do 
with him, but I know they said he was an atheist, an' 
he had awful queer ideas about art an' nature an' all 
that kinder rubbish. An' Fan used to go round with 
him a lot, an' I guess he did influence her some. 
They went for drives an' things, an' she used to go 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 247 

out with him when he was sketchin', and people did 
say she used to — ^pose for him, but I don't believe 
that for a moment. Fan's reckless, but I don't think 
she's ever been worse'n reckless. But, anyway, things 
did have an awful ugly sound, an' it's pretty hard to 
say where Fan's foolishness would carry her when it 
come to takin' up with other people's ideas. Anyway, 
he got her talked about, an' I blame him for the 
whole of it, for he was a lot older than Fan, an' he'd 
ought to have known how things would get round. 

"I hate to drag this up, Mr. King, an' I wouldn't 
have told you, only I guess you'll be bound to hear 
about it an' you'd better know. I don't attach 
any importance to it myself except just what I've 
told you. It was Jakey Rose first got the tale about, 
an' I guess you know how much to believe of any- 
thing Jakey says. Her father used to spend a lot of 
his time over to Monterey last siunmer, when the 
races was on, an' I guess he never really heard all 
folks said or he'd have been stricter with hen Now 
I've told you this, Mr. King, because I've felt I'd 
ought to, but I don't want you to think any more of 
it than I do." 

They had reached the gate of Mrs. Hewitt's house 
and she turned to take the basket from him. King 
gave it up to her mechanically. 



248 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"You don't bdievc it?" he said. 

Mrs. Hewitt paused a moment, uncomfortably, 
meeting his troubled, straightforward gaze. With 
all her well-meaning she had yet to learn that 
scrupulousness may become a vice; that there are 
occasions when a whole lie may do less barm than 
a half truth. She had the short-sighted vision of all 
those who try to do good upon the lines of judg- 
ment 

"No, I don't, Mr. Kmg," she said at last "An' 
if I had I shouldn't have told you all this. But it's 
awful hard to say. Fan's a queer girl. I don't 
think she'd do wrong knowin' it was wrong. But 
she is iwful foolish, an' there's no good sayin' she 
isn't'* 

"I know she is reckless.'* He drew his palm 
slowly along the bright handlebar, looking down. 
Then he lifted his eyes to her face again. 

"Mrs. Hewitt, it would mean a great deal tome 
if you could tell me it wasn't true." 

"I've told you all I know, so far as truth goes, an' 
I've told you what I thought, an* I guess I can't do 
no more. I've always liked Fan an' I've tried to be 
a friend to her, as much as she's let me. I've wished 
sometimes it could a' been more." 

"I know you have, and — ^she needs it, and I've 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 249 

wished so often she did get along with you better. 
It's seemed to me such a pity " 

"Well, I guess Fan knows her own mind," said 
Mrs. Hewitt, not unkindly. "An' there ain't no good 
tryin' to drive her. She's her father for that all over. 
Won't you come in a while, Mr. King?" 

"I guess not, thanks." He took hold of the bi- 
cycle to move it to the kerb, and held out his hand 
to her. 

"I know you're Fan's friend," he said. "And I'm 
. . • very grateful to you for saying what you have, 
and • • • 

He did not finish the sentence, but turned after 
a moment, and moved away. If Mrs. Hewitt had 
a momentary qualm, watching the young man as he 
mounted the bicycle and rode slowly oif down the 
tree-shaded street, it vanished by the time she had 
reached the house and deposited her parcels on the 
kitchen table. There was left her then only the 
comfortable righteousness of one who has tried to do 
her duty to her neighbour according to her own 
standards, and admirably succeeded. 



XXI 

DINNER was waiting by the time he got back 
to the house. 

"You're late, boy/' Fan said to him. "Where 
have you been?" 

"Down to the village/' 

He hung his cap up behind the door and sat down. 
It was Mrs. Coble's cleaning day, and the smell 
of soapsuds, interpenetrated by occasional bursts of 
religious fervour, reached them through the half- 
opened kitchen door. King was silent through the 
meal. Fan, her intuition quickened always where 
he was concerned, read through his restless pre- 
occupation, and knew the cause of it. The meshes 
she had spun in heedless hours were beginning to 
close round her own feet She joked obstinately, 
conscious how his own mood threw her. own forced 
gaiety into uncomfortable relief. When they rose 
he paused a moment, his hand on the back of the 
chair. 

"Are you busy this afternoon?" he said. "Lcfs 
go for a walk up the road a bit." 

250 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 251 

She looked at him, understanding, and the comers 
of her mouth straightened. 

"Very well. I'll be ready in a few minutes." 

She lingered a while, giving unnecessary directions 
to Mrs. Goble, with an impulse, foreign to her, of 
gaining time. When she came out at last King wa3 
waiting on the porch. 

"Are you ready?" she said. 

They walked up the road side by side, keeping to 
the narrow footpath under the trees. The huckle- 
berry bushes were turning colour and dropping their 
leaves, and the scent of sweet-fern was strong on the 
dry September air. Down the stretch of empty 
road hung a smoky haze of autumn. King recog- 
nised her manner dimly as being in some measure a 
response to his own. There was an aloofness that 
told him she understood all he was going to say, 
and was merely waiting till he should choose to say 
it. They turned the bend, and left the house out of 
sight among the sheltering pine woods. 

"I guess you know what I want to talk about," he 
said at last. 

"I guess I do." 

It was scarcely a comfortable beginning. She 
stooped as she walked and broke a spray from one 
of the bushes. "I saw you talking to Mrs. Hewitt 
this morning. I came up the road behind you." 



252 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

''I met ber coming back from the village." 

"Yes." 

His eyes fixed themselves on the little branch she 
was holding. She stripped the leaves off one by one 
and then threw it away. 

"I suppose she had been enlightening you on a few 
little matters. Hadn't you better begin ?" 

"Fan," he said, "you're making it frightfully hard 
for me." 

"How? I don't think I am. I thought I was 
helping you out." 

"You know what I want to say, and you know 
how I hate to say it. But I've got to. Fan, I want 
you to tell me the truth about last summer." 

"Haven't you heard it already from Mrs. Hewitt?" 

"I'm not judging by what Mrs. Hewitt says, or any- 
one else. I want the truth from you yourself." 

"Well?" 

"Did you . . . care for him ?" 

He saw the quick instinctive bend of her head. 
This was not just what she had expected. 

"Yes," she said, "I did, but — it wasn't in the way 
you mean." She paused a moment, then went on 
steadily. "I liked him. He was the first friend I 
ever had, and I liked him because he was dever 
and . . . broad-minded, and he was different fn»n 
anyone else I ever met He was the first perscm I 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 253 

ever knew who . . . saw things the way I'd always 
wanted to see them. He'd been everywhere, and 
seen things and places and people, and I liked to 
hear him talk. Maybe he wasn't religious or any- 
thing of that kind, but I don't care what anyone 
round here says of him; I liked him, and — ^he was a 
good man, I didn't know very much about things 
in those days, but I knew enough to know that. 
And religion isn't everything, Willis." She was 
looking straight ahead earnestly up the road. 
"Everyone hasn't got it. I never had. And he 
made me see that it wasn't the main thing; that it 
didn't matter, if one went on right. I suppose you 
think it's funny that I thought so much of him as I 
did. But you've never been in my place. You've 
never lived down here, year in and year out, without 
a soul you cared to speak to. You don't know what 
it's like; what it meant to me to have someone to 
talk to once, someone fresh, who wasn't like the 
people round here, and who hadn't prejudices. And 
I hadn't met you then, Willis. He was the first 
outside person that ever came into my life. Oh, 
can't you see it, boy! Can't you see why I liked 
him, what he meant to me, what he did for me? If 
it hadn't been for him I don't know how I should 
have got through the summer; I should just gone 
on and drifted and stayed in one groove. You can't 



254 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

judge, you haven't any right to— nobody has— till 
they've tried it; till they've lived the life I have, and 
put up with the things I have. 

"He took me out of myself. He was a clever man, 
and he's a great deal older than me, and he'd travelled 
and seen things, and I liked to hear him talk. And 
it wasn't only talking either. I liked to be with 
him. He was restful. I used to go out and sit with 
him and watch him paint, and sometimes vfe'd never 
say a word for hours together. I suppose people 
thought because I went round with him a lot we 
were always talking, but we wem't Sometimes I've 
been for drives with him, and we've neither of us 
opened our mouth the whole way. He was just a 
companion to me, and he ... he wasn't ever any- 
thing else." 

"But, Fan " 

"Oh, I know what people say!" she went on. "I 
know how they talked, but it wasn't true. He 
wasn't that kind of man. If you'd met him you'd 
know." 

"And you never cared for him — ^you can tell me 
honestly you never did?" 

They had reached a place where the road branched, 
and she stood still, facing him. 

"Never — ^not as you mean. I thought I did once, 
but I know now I didn't Do you think I'd stand 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 255 

h^re and tell you if it wasn't true? I never cared 
for anyone till I met you, and you know it. Do you 
think I've ever spoken to any man as I speak to 
you? — do you think I've ever let a man . . . kiss 
me before 1 I never loved anybody in my life but 
you. I never knew what it meant. Do you think 
I'd stand here and tell you lies — ^you? Oh, boy, 
can't you believe me?" 

"I do believe you . . . but, Fan, you make it so hard." 

"How?'^ she demanded. "Have I ever told you a 
lie in my life? I told you one lie once, and you know 
what it was, and you know why I did it. Have I 
ever told you any other? I told you that because 
I . , . cared for you then, though I didn't know it. 
I couldn't let you go, and I told a lie to keep you, 
and I've never told you another and I never will." 

"But, Fan, it wasn't all! If it was it wouldn't 
trouble me. You've lied to me all along. You lied 
about Monterey that time. You told me you didn't 
know who that man was there, and you did. You 
told me you didn't know the road — ^you let us go on 
and you knew all the time " 

"Do you call those lies? Because I don't. I call 
a thing a lie when it really matters — ^when it affects 



can't you see — ^you must have a moral 




256 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

''No» I don't see, and I never will; I see tbe 
difference between a deliberate lie and a thing that 
doesn't affect anyone," 

"A lie is a lie, Fan." 

'"You might as well say I told you lies the first 
day I met you. So I did — if you call it so." 

"That was different." 

"How? When I tell you. the truth you don't 
believe me. And I may have lied to other people, 
but I don't lie to you . . . only once I did. Do you 
think I wouldn't believe every word you said to me, 
if you told me it was truth ? You can't care for me 
or you would believe mel" 

"I do care. Fan, and you know it. It's because I 
care so much " 

"I beg your pardon. I don't think you do. You 
go and listen to everything anyone says, and you'd 
sooner believe them than me, just because I told you 
a lie once and owned up to it You go and talk me 
over with a woman like Mrs. Hewitt ^" 

"Mrs. Hewitt likes you. Fan." 

"Yes, I know how much she likes me! Hasn't 
she tried to make mischief — ^to get you away from 
here ever since you came ? Now I hope she's satis- 
fied. She'd like to have me go to church and all that 
maybe. But when has she ever put out a hand to 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 257 

help me— ever tried to say a good word for me — ^she 
or anyone else round here?" 

"She would if you'd let her." 

"Let her! If I'd go down on my knees to her, I 
suppose ! No thank you. I'd rather go my own way 
and be damned." 

"Fan, can't you see how you make it worse for 
yourself? You won't let people help you. You 
won't listen to what's said. You set yourself against 
everyone, and you won't even give them a chance to 
believe you. You know how much I care for you, and 
you make it hard even for me !" 

"Make it hard for you to believe me? You don't 
care, boy. If you cared for me a tenth as much 
as I care for you you'd know I was telling you the 
truth when I said I was. I never thought I would speak 
to any man in my life as I've spoken to you. I'd 
believe anything you said, I'd do anything you told 
me, if you dragged me down to hell with you. Do 
you suppose I weigh this and consider that where 
you're concerned? Do you suppose I'd listen to 
what anyone in the world said about you? You 
don't, love me. You'd rather go by other people's 
opinion of me than your own. Now I've told you 
the truth, and you can go. I'd let you go if it killed 
me, sooner than keep you, knowing that you feel the 
s 



2S8 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

way you do about mel Only^-I wish to God Fd 
never met you T 

They had turned mechanically, and the hotel came 
into sight again beyond the bend of the road. 

"Is there anything else?" she said. "Is there any- 
thing more you'd like me to tell you lies about?" 

"Yes, there is." • He stopped short "I don't know 
that it matters. They said you used to pose for him. 
Is it true?" 

Fan looked at him, and drew herself up. 

"Fm not going to insult you or myself by answer- 
ing. As you say, it doesn't matter. Now will you go 
on, please?" 

She had stepped back from the path, and stood 
waiting for him to pass her. King hesitated a 
moment. 

"I was down at the Hardings' cottage this morn- 
ing. They want me to stay and spend the last two 
weeks with them. Perhaps I had better go." 

"I think it would be a great deal better," she said 
dully. 

He waited still. "Would you rather I went? You 
know what it means." 

"I think you had better go," she sjud again, with- 
out looking at him. "You had much better." Then 
as he did not move she stepped past hini, and walked 
on by herself to the house. 



XXII 

FAN sat on the back doorstep, her chin in her 
hands, watching some chickens that quarrelled 
desultorily over a decayed tomato among the 
trodden vines. There was one half-grown cockerel, 
a hideous bluish bird with a scraggy neck, that 
fought all the others off, and she fixed her eyes on 
him with a mechanical, aversive interest. She had 
on a faded blue wrapper, discarded a year ago, and 
stockingless feet were thrust into slippers, worn 
down at the sides and with rusted threads showing 
the track of ancient beadwork. She had drawn 
her knees up to her chin in an attitude of listless 
indifference, and her gaze, turned on the disput- 
ing fowls, seemed to follow their movements with 
the mere physical attention one gives to objects near 
at hand when the mind is distant. 

In the kitchen behind her prevailed a general 
litter of things left to themselves, a hopeless accumu- 
lated muddle of neglect. Mrs. Sales came into 
the room presently; she could hear her creaking 
about. 

259 



d6o THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"Where's a cup, Fan? Ain't there none clean?" 

"I don't know." 

Mrs. Sales came to the doorway and lounged 
against it, looking down at her. 

"I just come down to see if I couldn't get a 
cup of coflfee. Seems to me, it'd do my head good 
if I could have some. But there ain't a clean cup 
in the place. An' the stove ain't very hot. You 
might have kep* the fire in, seein' you're down 
here doin' nothing!" 

Fan turned round. "Where's my father?" 

"Gone to Ashury." 

"Did he drive?" 

She nodded, yawning. "I'd have gone along on'y 
I thought it was goin' to rain. It is, too. So I 
thought I wouldn't deprive you of the pleasure of my 
company for half a day — seein' how much you ap- 
preciate it." 

Fan transferred her attention to the chickens 
again. 

"You needn't think I'm so dead stuck on stayb' 
here with no one to open my mouth to, for I ain't! 
What's in the house for dinner?" 

"I don't know." 

"Don't care either! I'd have stayed in bed if I'd 
known there wasn't no fire. You might have seen to 



THE PRICE OE YOUTH 261 

it, but you never do think of anyone but yourself. 
I'm going to put some more wood on. Where is 
there any?" 

"In the wood-box." 

"You don't care how bad anyone feels so long as 
it ain't you, do you ?" 

"No." 

"Maybe you will some day. Maybe you'll think 
then it might be worth while of people to make 
themselves pleasant. I wonder if the day'U ever 
come, Fan," she went on, "when you want folks to 
do things for you an' they won't, an* speak a decent 
word to you, an' they won't. I guess when it does 
you won't think so much about pride, an' you won't 
be so ready to condemn folks for things without you 
know whether it's their own fault or not, an' you'll 
think a little less about right'n wrong an' a little 
more about kindness. Maybe you'll find there ain't 
such an almighty difference between good people an' 
bad people, when it comes to the pinch, an' you'll 
feel differently. An' you'll care a little more about 
what other people suffer when you come to suffer 
yourself." 

"Maybe I shall," said Fan stonily. 

She stood up, shivering a little, and turned to go 
into the house. Mrs. Sales had found a teacup, and 
was rinsing it out under the sink. 



262 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"Will you have some coflfee if I make it?" 

"No^ thanks." 

"I don't believe you ate no breakfast,** said Mrs. 
Sales, regarding her curiously. 

"That doesn't matter to you." 

She went up to her room and pulled off her wrap- 
per, looking into the little shallow mirror on the 
bureau. Her face had never been pretty, but it had 
lost now whatever attractiveness the will to be 
pretty had once wrought in it; her eyes were tired 
and lustreless, and her very skin had lost its clear- 
ness. She tidied her hair a little and put on a 
blouse and skirt, doing everything with the same 
listless attention. When she went down again she 
encountered Mrs. Sales on the staircase. She was 
carrying a tumbler with milk in it; ice tinkled 
against the glass as she mounted from step to step, 
her draperies trailing untidily behind, the faint waft 
of violets preceding her up the staircase. She stood 
aside to let Fan pass. 

"There's cold meat," she said, "an' com. I just 
looked. I should think you might put the com on to 
boil if you've got nothing else to do.*' 

Fan turned at the foot of the stairs. 

"You can put it on yourself if you want it. I'm 
going out." 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 265 

"You're damned sociable !" said Mrs. Sales. 

Fan walked along the road to the Martins' cottage. 
She had not heard anything of Phemy for some days, 
and with a sudden inclination to companionship it 
struck her she would go round and see how the girl 
was. In the air was the chill presage of rain; ground 
and foliage looked alike colourless, and the sky hung 
low and woolly over the dull, level pines. 

She passed through the little gorgeous front 
garden. Blossoming plants in tin cans were ranged 
on a wooden stand on the porch, and one of them, a 
pink sugar-like begonia, caught her eye as she 
knocked. There was no answer, and after a moment 
she pushed the door open and went through to the 
kitchen. 

In the small, close room, which smelled of a stren- 
uous wash-day, Phemy sat at the table, her arms 
folded upon it and her face buried. The dull light 
coming through the screen of geranium plants on the 
windowsill beside her, rested on her yellow crouched 
head. When she looked up Fan could see that she 
had been crying. Her mother moved about heavily, 
hanging wet towels on a line across the room. 
Neither took notice of Fan till she paused inside the 
doorway. 

"I came to see how Phemy was. Mrs. Goble told 
mc she wasn't very well." 



264 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

Mrs. Martin turned a red, antagonistic face to her. 

"Oh, you did ! I take it real kind of you to come 
an' see how Phemy is." 

Fan looked from one to the other. 

"What's the matter?" 

"What's the matter? You come here an' you ask 
what's the matter, as if you didn't know! There's 
Phemy. Look at her !" She raised her voice, and the 
yellow head flinched miserably. "Come here and 
look at her, if that's what you came for. I wonder 
you have the face to show yourself in the house!" 

Fan flushed angrily. 

"Mrs. Martin, what do you mean by speaking to me 
Ukethis?" 

"I know what I mean, an' you know what I mean, 
that's brought all the trouble on her. Oh, you 
needn't stand there pretendin' with your fine-lady 
airs." She took a fresh towel from the wash-tub 
and stood wringing it out with a grim stolid energy. 
"Phemy was a good enough girl till she went to your 
house, Fan Tasker, an' if I'd known all I do now I'd 
have seen her dead before I ever let her go. Maybe 
you think I don't know who I've got to thank for 
it all." 

Fan looked at the g^rl, cowering in the wooden diair, 
and something clutched at her heart 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 265 

"I . . . don't know what you mean," she faltered. 

Mrs. Martin wheeled round on her. "No, you don't 
know what I mean. Ask Phemy. She's told me 
enough about the way you've talked to her and the 
way you've led her on. You done your best to ruin 
her, an' now you see your work, an' so sure as there's 
a God in heaven. Fan Tasker, He'll punish you for't, 
an' I pray He'll punish you as you deserve." 

Fan listened to her in bewilderment. For a 
moment the little homely kitchen, with its framed 
chromos and shiny stove, and Mrs. Martin's towering 
form in the middle, seemed to whirl about her, as 
in the dance of some hideous nightmare. She had 
a horribk second of wondering whether she were 
dreaming^ She put her hand instinctively against 
the door-frame to steady herself. 

"Mrs. Martin," she said, "listen to me. I know 
nothing of what you are talking about — ^nothing ! As 
for Phemy coming to our house, I asked her out of 
kindness, as you know. I liked having her, and I 
thought it would be nice for her to have something 
to do, and you were glad enough to let her come. I 
tried my best to treat her well, and " 

"Yes, an' I curse the day I was ever fool enough 
to let her go for your coaxin'l You thought you'd 
give her a nice time, didn't you? You thought she 



266 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

was dull at home an' maybe you could lively her up a 
bit. I've heard all about it. I guess now Phemy's 
seen you ain't quite the friend you laid yourself out to 
be. Phemy was brought up decent under a decent 
roof, an' she never knew no wickedness till she 
crossed your doorstep. You learned her all she 
knows, an' you've learned her well. She was a good, 
God-fearin' girl, an' if she'd never gone with you 
she'd have been a good girl now." 

Fan turned despairingly to the girl. 

"Phemy, I ask you to speak the truth, straight 
out. Did I know anything of this at all?" 

"Oh, you can '' 

"I am not speaking to you, Mrs. Martin; I'm 
speaking to Phemy. Don't sit there looking scared. 
Are you afraid to open your mouth and tell the 
truth? Now, have I ever led you to do anything 
you'd be ashamed to tell of — ^have I ever led you 
into anything against your will? Have I ever spoken 
a word to you, at any time that you wouldn't have 
repeated to your mother or to anyone else — ^that you 
wouldn't repeat here before the two of us? Answer 
me?" 

"I . . . don't know ..." said Phemy. 

She cringed, her fingers gripping the edge of the 
chair. Something in her attitude brought back to 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 267 

Fan the night of the storm, the same small terrified 
figure, in dripping muslin, crouched in the lighted 
bar. Other scenes returned to her, too; vague 
memories that fell now into the hard perspective of 
daylight; the morning she had found Phemy in the 
kitchen, odd moments, chance words, that flashed 
now for the first time into meaning. What a blind 
fool she had been! The same furtive appeal, the 
hopeless unspoken fear, was in Phemy's blue, tear- 
stained eyes now as she met them, and this time Fan 
understood. 

"Phemy," she said gently. "I'm not asking you to 
say anything against your will. I'm only asking 
you to speak the truth. Have I known anything 
about this at all ? — speak honestly !" 

"I . . . don't know. I — ^guess so." 

"Phemy, how can you say it ?" 

Phemy, a miserable little Judas on the chair, 
crouched further under her look. 

"I . • . guessed you knew all along. I " 

"You leave her alone, an' no bullyin'! What 
Phemy's told she's told to me, her own mother, an' 
that's enough. I know who's to blame. You've put 
ideas into her head " 

"What ideas?" 

"Wasn't she goin' steady with Willie Pearce, before 



268 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

all this come along? An* didn't you used to talk to 
her an' tell her you thought it was an awful pity for 
a girl her age to settle down an' git married, and 
you'd thought she'd oughter have some good times 
first ? Didn't you tell her what a dull time she had at 
home, doin' housework, an' you thought I'd oughter 
let her go round with other girls for a spell an' have 
a little fun ? An' you'd have her to spend the evenin's, 
tim'n again, at your house, an' you have her go down 
to the landin' with you an' get ice cream an' listen to 
the music. An' you showed her how to do her hair 
different, an' you lent her things to make her look 
pretty, an* " 

"Stop!" Her own voice seemed to come from a 
long distance. 

"Ain't it true?" 

"Yes, it's true." She listened to her own words be- 
ing twisted against her, while Phemy cowered silent 
in the chair. "Yes, I said that. I thought it was a pity 
for any girl of seventeen to marry. But " 

"An' Willie Pearce'd have married her honest, an' 
if she hadn't listened to you she'd never have been 
where she is now. Bert Havens wasn't good enough 
for you to look at, with your city ways 'n your city 
friends, but you didn't mind tumin' him oflf on to 
Phemy " 



THE PRICE of; youth 269 

Fan's hand went out to the doorpost again, then 
dropped helplessly at her side. 

"Bert Havens!" 

"Yes, Bert Havens. You needn't look s'if you 
never heard his name before. Didn't she used to 
meet him at your house, where you kep' him hangin' 
round after you till you didn't have no more use for 
him? An' '' 

"Phemy, how many evenings have you been out 
with me, after your work was over? How many 
evenings have you spent at our house at all?" 

"I . . . don't know." 

The words came guiltily. Fan caught the mo- 
mentary lift of her blue eyes, and there was a 
despairing appeal in th^^ 

"Once more, you mealjito say that I knew about 
this — that I encouragedf/ou?" 

Phemy's voice rose in sudden nervous shrillness. 

"Yes, you did, Fan ! You did ! I know you did !" 

"Ain't it true?" 

Fan looked at the girl's head, bent down again in 
her hands. 

"Very well." 

"Ain't it true?" Mrs. Martin demanded. 

"Yes . • • it's true," she said slowly. 

"It's true, an' you wonder I curse my trust in ever 



270 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

lettin' her go with you. I know who the blame's on. 
An' there's a God in heaven, Fan Tasker, though you 
may deny Him, an' He's watchin' things an' seein' 
things, an' He knows the rights of it." 

"I hope He does I" 

She looked at Phemy, and restrained a wild, im- 
pulse to laugh, the hysterical reaction of overstrained 
nerves, 

"He does, an' some day the curse of what you've 
done'll light on you, an' may it light heavy. Now 
go out of my house." She straightened herself, and 
there was a simple dignity in the lines of her. solid 
figure, her broad, toil-worn face. "Go out of my 
house. Fan Tasker, an' I ain't never askin' you to 
darken it again. You've done your work, an' you've 
done it good, an' now I'll ask you to go." 

Fan had never respected Mrs. Martin more than 
she did at that moment. Her quiet pride had in 
it an element of greatness. She turned her back on 
the girl and bent over the wooden tub again. 

"May I speak to Phemy, alone, for a moment?" 

"No, you mayn't. I reckon you've done her enough 
harm already. She don't want to speak to you, an' 
I ain't goin' to have her. You go." 

Outside, the grim himiour of it caught her again; 
she laughed bitterly as she went past the bright 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH ' 271 

autumn flower-borders and out at the little painted 
gate. What did it matter? Her own shoulders 
were broad enough; she could take the blame for 
two. Turning oflf through the woods, with an 
instinct to avoid the high-road, she heard a pattering 
of feet behind her. Phemy had slipped out by the 
back way and dodged after her breathlessly. 

"Fan " 

Fan turned slowly and waited for her. 

"Well?" 

"Oh, Fan, I hated to have you go that way I I 
wanted to tell you. Oh, Fan, are you awful mad?" 

She was out of breath, and half sobbing still. But 
all her fear seemed to have been left behind her in the 
house; her childish eyes met Fan's for the first time 
openly, and there was a hopeless courage in them as 
well as shame. 

"No, I'm not mad at you. You know that. But, 
Phemy, you know it wasn^t true, don't you? You 
know I knew nothing about it at all?" 

"Yes, I knowl Fan, I've treated you awful bad 
all along!" 

"Why couldn't you have spoken the truth? No one 
would have been any angrier with you." 

"I was . . . scared. Fan, you don't know what 
mother's like — you don't ! If she thought it was my 
fault she'd have killed me. I dasn't tell her!" 



2^2 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"I sec." She was silent a moment. "Then you 
knew, Phemy? That night you were so scared of the 
storm " 

"Fan, it near killed me. I wish't it had. I wish't 
I was dead now. You don't know what it's been like. 
I've laid awake nights an' I've prayed God to kill me 
'fore anyone found it out." 

"And you told your mother you spent the evenings 
over at my house all the time?" 

"I had to tell her something. I had to, Fan I I've 
been so scared. I've been scared you'd know, an' 
you'd let on, an' I made you promise " 

"But, Phemy, why couldn't you have told me the 
truth?" 

"I dasn't. I knew you'd hate me. You ain't like 
me. Fan, I've wanted to tell you over an' over again 
an' each time I couldn't." 

Fan smiled, and the smile made her face curiously 
older. 

"I don't think you need have been afraid of me, 
Phemy. I shouldn't have hated you. I don't hate 
people because they're . . . foolish. I think it 
would have been better if you'd told me from the first. 
I think I'd have been a little . . . kinder to you if 
I'd known." 

"An' you ain't mad? Oh, Fan, I was so scared 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 273 

you'd let on, back in the house. You was awful 
good!" 

"You ought to know me better than that. I don't 
go back on people, Phemy. And you know if I ever 
did you any harm I didn't mean to." 

"You never did. You always was better'n me. 
Fan, if they do say things about you. On'y moth- 
er ^" 

"If I were you," said Fan gently, "I wouldn't be so 
scared of her. She's fond of you, Phemy, and I don't 
think she'll be angry with you very long. It seems 
to me, if I had a mother, I'd want to tell her . . • 
everything." 

"You don't know. Fan, I couldn't. I'd have told 
anyone first. It's different for you; you don't know 
what it's like. You've never gone to bed and prayed 
you wouldn't wake up in the momin'. You've never 
" She paused, and her hands clenched them- 
selves with the old gesture in her skirt. "Fan, you 
ain't goin' to let on — ^not to no one ?" 

"No. Of course I'm not. I guess anything more 
people like to say about me won't hurt me anyway. 
Now run along, Phemy. If your mother knew you 
were out here talking to me she'd be very angry." 

"She don't know. She's finishin' the washin'. Fan, 
you don't think I'm so . . . awful bad?" 

T 



tjA THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

'"No. IVe UAA joa. And I doo't dunk I . . . 
see things just the same as other people always. 
Maybe it would be better, some wajrs, if I did, 
but I don't know. . . . And Phemy— don't be so 
frightened of your mother. I don't think you need 
be." 

"You're . . . awful good. Fan." 

Rain was banning to fall, a fine delayed drizzle. 
Fan looked at the girl's thin cotton dress with a new in- 
stinct of protection. 

"Run along, Phemy I You mustn't get wet through 
and catch cold." 

"I wish't I could I I wish't I could die," said Phemy 
doggedly, 

"No, you don't You don't wish anything so 
wicked." 

"It ain't wicked. It ain't no v;ickeder'n what I 
am. 

"Don't talk nonsense I Run along into the house 
before your mother comes to look for you. You're 
getting wet now." 

"An' — ^you won't ever give me away?" 

"No," said Fan. 



XXIII 

THE rain, now that it had come, lasted sevieral 
days, the first break in the September dryness. 
The wet intensified the yellow of turning leaves, the 
russet and gold of decaying underbrush. The trunks 
of the pines were black and saturated, their boughs 
weighted down with moisture which, condensing on 
every twig, ran off their tips in dull, heavy drops to 
the sodden ground below. 

Fan spent a great deal of her time in the woods. 
She wandered out bareheaded, regardless of the 
weather, and came home soaked to the skin. She 
seemed utterly indifferent as to whether she took 
cold or not. Mrs. Sales began at last to worry 
about her. Little as she liked Fan, it went against 
her good nature to see the girl going about listlessly, 
day after day, oblivious alike of household matters, 
her own health, and worst sign of all to another 
woman, what she wore or how she looked. All pride 
seemed to have gone from her. She settled down into 
a groove of morose silence. She no longer took any 

275 



276 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

interest even in quarrelling with Mrs. Sales. Tasker 
was out a good deal of Ac time, transafting antmim 
buMness in a neighbouring township, and it often 
happened that the two women, left alone in the 
house, passed whole days without exchanging a 
word. Yet in a way th^ got on better than they 
had done hitherto. Fan took no interest in the 
house; she let things go their own way, and the &ct 
of her indifference reduced the old-time antagonism to 
a kind of negative truce. 

To Mrs. Sales there was something dreadful in 
the girl's mood. She b^;an to have uneasy visicms 
of Fan going off into a decline. Sometimes when 
she was away from the house Mrs. Sales would 
fidget restlessly from door to window, a dozen times 
in the afternoon, on the look-out for her return, 
vague forebodings — ^traceable possibly to long ac- 
quaintance with the ways of forsaken maidens in 
novelettes— dominating her indolence. She tried in 
sheepish, almost pathetic ways, to rouse the girl out 
of her Hstlessness. If Fan recognized this change 
of attitude she took no notice. She met all Mrs. Sales' 
overtures with an indifference that had not even 
the energy of actual repulsion. More than once, 
after Fan had gone to bed, Mrs. Sales took her wet 
shoes and dried them surreptitiously by the kitchen 
fire. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 277 

One afternoon, when the rain had cleared a little, 
Fan went down to the river-bank and sat on the 
drenched ground under the trees, in the spot where she 
had first met King. The woods, that had known her 
happiest hours, had for her now the attractiveness of 
desolation. She took a morbid pleasure in going over 
the summer day by day, bringing home to herself all 
that she had lost. 

The little sentry-box where she and Phemy had 
bathed so often stood vacant, the door unhinged and 
the grey boards streaked black with rain. Across the 
river, smooth and unruffled, the opposite bank stood 
out clear through the moist atmosphere. The neutral 
sky was broken in one place by a streak of yellow, 
where a watery gleam of sunlight filtered through. 
Out on the river a boat was moving diagonally, the 
sail hanging slack now and then as the breeze failed. 
She could hear the flapping of canvas and the 
creak of the sheet as they put about. When the boat 
came nearer, on the second tack that would bring it 
close to the shore where she sat, she could see three 
people in the stem. One was Dolly Harding, hatless 
and smiling, and by her sat a big grey-haired man in 
a white sweater, that Fan knew to be her father. The 
third was King. 

He had the tiller, and as the boat came about, 



378 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

almost directly below her, she could look down on 
them as from a balcony. He was sitting out on the 
gunwale, one knee drawn up and his pipe gripped 
between his teeth, in the attitude made familiar to 
her a hundred times. She could see the way his 
hair ruffled back from his forehead, the old half- 
disagreeable expression as he screwed up his eyes to 
watch the sail. Dolly was laughing, and her father 
leaned over to say something to King as he put the 
tiller over. Then the boat turned, with a hissing rip- 
ple at the stem; he changed places, stooping as the 
boom swung over, and this time the sail hid him from 
view. 

She sat there for a long time, watching till the sail 
became a mere triangular blur, lost among others in 
the lower stretch of the river. After all they were 
his people, of his world; he belonged to them, not to 
her. As she walked back to the house she felt no 
active jealousy, only a dull sense of loss. He had 
come into her life and he had gone away. She had 
the simimer to remember; that ought to be enough. 
And she tried to think what it would have been like 
had she never met him at all; whether it would have 
been any better. She tried to realise the time when 
she had not known him, and could not. Somehow 
he seemed bound up in every memory of her life. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 279 

Her feet sank into the damp heavy soil of the path- 
way. Her eyes began to prick, and for a moment 
the straight pine-trunks wavered before her. She 
set her teeth savagely, glaring at them through a 
mist. 

"You fool — fool — fool," she said. "What are you 
making a fuss about? Are you going to whine and 
holler like a whipped dog just because you had some- 
thing once and you lost it? You'd better be glad 
yon ever had it at all. So you're^ going to go round 
feeling sorry for yourself and trying to work up a 
beautiful pathetic " 

She stopped short and sat down by the pathway, 
burying her face in her arms, not without a ridiculous 
anger with herself in that she could not cry without 
having to sit down to do it. She drew in her breath 
with a long resisting shudder. 

"Oh, God, I don't care I I don't care if I am a fool I 
I . . . can't stand it." 

She cried for a long time in sheer abandonment, and 
the crying rested her. Gradually she felt her strength^ 
of will come back, her power to jeer at h^r own mis- 
fortune. The drops from the weighted pine-boughs 
fell on her head and shoulders, and the moist resinous 
smell of the ground rose to her soothingly. She stood 
up and went doggedly on her way. 



28o THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

When she got home Mrs. Sales noticed that her eyes 
were red, but said nothing. Three weeks ago she 
would have rejoiced at Fan's discomfiture. Now that 
her triumph had come she found herself taking singu- 
larly little pleasure in it. 

She ransacked her mind for some scheme of ccoi- 
solation; of diversion even. One day she came down 
into the sitting-room with a fashion-paper in her 
hand. 

"I just come across an awful pretty shirt pattern," 
she began warily. "It's one I had by me. I thought 
maybe you'd like it to make up that blue stuflF you got 
a while back." 

"I'm not going to make it up." 

"I would. It's real pretty . . . look." She 
spread the paper out on the table. "I'd make it up for 
you if you'd let me have it I'd just as lieve have 
somethin' to do." 

"I guess I won't bother/* 

But she met the overture on the whole less ungra- 
ciously than usual. Mrs. Sales was encouraged to say 
to her later : 

"Fan, why don't you ever drive down to the village 
any more? I would if I was you. It*s awful dull 
stayin' round the house all the while." 

'*I don't stay round the house." 



THE PRICE OE .YOUTH 281 

"Seems to me I'd go out more an* see folks. It's 
awful dull for you." 

It was as much as she dared say, but somehow the 
attempt, clumsy as it was, seemed to pave the way 
to a more friendly footing between them. Mrs. Sales' 
ill-humour was always due to force of circumstances 
rather than natural inclination, and she was bent 
now on trying her best honestly to repair a damage 
for which she held herself dimly and uncomfortably 
responsible. 

They were sitting in the parlour one afternoon. It 
was Sunday, and Fan was wading doggedly through 
the coloured comic supplement of the Journal. Mrs. 
Sales put down the sheet she was holding, severing 
her mind from the latest Newport scandal to watch 
the girl's bent head. 

"Fan," she said, "you ain't seen nothin' of Mr. King 
since he went away, have you ?" 

"No," said Fan. 

Her tone was flatly disinterested, but Mrs. Sales was 
not to b£ baulked. 

"He's stayin' in the village still, ain't he?' 

"I don't know." 

"I guess he'll come over some day." 

"I don't see why he should," said Fan. She kept 
her eyes fixed rigidly on the last achievement of Foxy 



aaa THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

GraiK^ but the crude adoors danced before her 
eyes. 

''I guess be win an right Fan,'' she blundered with 
sudden resolve, ^if Mr. IQng asked you to marry him, 
would you do it?'* 

**WUl yon ten me what that has to do with you?" 

**It ain't got nothin'. I only wondered." Mrs. 
Sales' meekness nowadays was amazing. "I just got 
to thinkin' about it Of course he win," she finished 
guUelessly. 

"What do you mean?" said Fan. 

"Why, I mean after that Monterey business an' the 
way he got you talked about He's a gentleman/' 
said Mrs. Sales with fine confidence. "I wouldn't 
give much for him if he didn't Why, Fan, you 
don't mean you ain't thought of it. Of course he 
win, if he's got any right feelin'. He ain't so dumb 
as what that comes to. I guess he knows the way 
folks is talkin' an' the way they will talk. He'n have 
to ask you, right enough. You must see it yourself. 
I guess he ain't gone so far just to back out at the last 
I was only " 

Fan had risen, and the paper feU from her hands. 
Her face was white and strained. She stood looking 
down at Mrs. Sales as though she had struck her. 

"Why, Fan, I didn't mean to make you fed badly 1 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 283 

I was on'y sayin' what everyone else'II say. I thought 
you— oh, Fan, I never knew you cared for him that 
muchr 

Something snapped in Fan's brain. She laughed 
dully. 

"I don't care for himl" she said. "Do you hear? 
I don't care I" 

She turned, and walked unsteadily out of the room. 

That evening Mrs. Sales was mixing her final 
night-cap when Fan came into the bar. She had 
been out for a walk, and she pulled her golf-cape off 
and flung it down on a chair. Her hair was disor- 
dered with the wind; her eyes were restless and her 
face flushed. 

"Where's the whiskey?" she said. "I'll have it 
when you get through. Say, it's as cold as hell out 
to-night ! We'll start a fire to-morrow if this keeps 
on. 

She reached out her hand. "Get a move on you I 
I'm shivering." 

The terrified astonishment of Mrs. Sales' face faded 
as she gazed at her, giving place to almost the first 
determination it had ever shown. She put the bottle 
aside. 

"I guess you don't want it. Fan." 

Fan laughed. 



384 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"What's the matter with you I Hurry up." 

Mrs. Sales' fingers tightened on the bottle. SEe 
faced the girl steadily. 

"I ain't goin' to. You ain't never touched it 
before an' you ain't goin' to now. Fan, are you 
crazy?" 

"Crazy? No. I'm sane — for once I" She straight- 
ened herself, pushing back the loosened hair from her 
forehead with a sweeping gesture. The little refracted 
points of light from the glassware behind the bar 
seemed to meet and reflect themselves in her reckless 
eyes. She looked at Mrs. Sales, standing there like a 
figure turned to salt, and laughed again, putting back 
her head. 

"Don't look at me as if I was a ghost !** 

Resolution dawned in Mrs. Sales' eyes. She pushed 
her own untasted cocktail to the back of the bar. 

"No, Fan. You ain't never done it an' you ain't 
goin' to begin. An' — I ain't either. Come on out to 
the kitchen an' we'll make some cocoa." 

"The hell!" said Fan, laughing. 



XXIV 

IN the two weeks that lapsed since he went to stay 
with the Hardings, King had only passed the 
Cedars Hotel once. It was dark then, and he was 
on his bicycle. Through the wide screen-doors a 
rectangle of yellow light was flung across the sandy 
road; the shutters were open at the downstairs 
windows, and he could make out lounging figures 
in the bar. The shrill squeak of the gramophone 
pierced the stillness, rasping out a popular song. 
He fancied, slowing his pace as he passed the house, 
a moving white glimmer against the tangled dusk of 
the garden. He could not be sure that it was Fan, 
and he did not make it his business to find out. But 
as he rode on into the quiet darkness he carried with 
him for a long time the impression of that restless 
moving blur among the dim bean-poles and shadowy 
weeds. 

Coming slowly this afternoon up the road from the 
village every remembered detail, as he neared the 
house, .greeted him with a sense of familiarity. A 

285 



286 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

little whik ago be had thooglit it a jear sinoe he left; 
now it seemed to him yesterday. There was Mrs. Mar- 
tin's cottage, with the same gay flower-beds in froot, 
the same string of washing at Ae back; then at the 
turn of the road the hotel came into sight, grey tim- 
bered against the pine-woods, with Ae gamit, white 
flagstaff, the broken fencing, the chickens scratching in 
the neglected yard. He remembered the other evening 
of his arrival ; the shiftlessness of the place struck him 
more forcibly now than then; he saw it with critical, 
accustomed eyes, robbed of any kindly glamour of 
strangeness. 

Mrs. Sales was sitting out on the porch. He left 
his bicycle by the palings and went up to her. 

"Is Fan in?" 

Mrs. Sales turned her slow cat-like eyes on him. 

"She's somewheres out in the woods, I guess. Did 
you want to see herP* 

"I'd like to." 

"You'll find her somewheres out at the back." 

"Thank you," said King awkwardly. 

He had been hoping to avoid Mrs. Sales. The 
sight of her familiar solid figure, in the soiled untidy 
wrapper; brought home to him his least pleasant 
recollections. He was conscious of disliking her 
more than ever; she seemed to him, sitting there. 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 287 

the dominant evil spirit of the house, voicing its worst 
side. He would rather have encountered Tasker 
himself. Something of the contempt he had always 
had for her showed itself in his face as he turned 
away. 

"I'll go and look for her," he said. 

Mrs. Sales watched him cross the yard. In her 
face was being written a curious struggle between pride 
and something deeper; an expression that was new 
and incongruous to her. It was almost a spiritual 
conflict. 

"Mr. Kingl" she called at last. 

He turned and came back slowly. She had risen 
from the rocking-chair and was standing with her 
wrapper girded about her, as though for battle. In 
a sense it was a battle, one of the quaint and tragic 
minor battles of human nature. This unstable soul, 
gripped by the first unselfish impulse of her life, touched 
at that moment the heroic. But of this King, as is the 
privilege of onlookers, saw nothing. He saw merely 
a stout, middle-aged woman of unprepossessing ap- 
pearance, decked in a ridiculous wrapper: a figure 
coarsened by the bread of dishonest idleness, a face 
scarred by self-indulgence. 

"Mr. King " she said again. 

"Did you want me ?" 



288 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

His lip curled a little as he faced her. She had 
winced under his look in the old days, but she did not 
now. 

"Yes," she said, "I want you, and I wanter tell you 
something — ^before you go an' see Fan. I reckon 
you sized me up the first day I come to the house, an' 
you don't like me no more'n I like you. I ain't liked 
you an' I ain't liked Fan, an' I done my best to 
make mischief between you, but I want to tell you 
one thing, an' it's the truth before Gawd if I ain't 
never spoke it before. Fan's a good girl, an' I want 
you to know it. You may have heard this about 
her an' that about her, but it ain't true. It ain't 
none of it true! I've lived with her, an' I guess I 
know. There ain't no love lost between us; she's 
acted mean to me an' I've acted 'mean to her, an' so 
far as that goes I reckon we're quits. I've hated her 
an' I've done all I know to do her harm, an' what 
I say to you I wouldn't say to no one else. There's 
lies been told about Fan, an' you've heard 'em, an' I 
want you to know they is lies. She's a good girl, an' 
I guess the man as marries her'U find it out, if he 
don't before. Maybe you think what I say don't 
count because it's me that says it. But if you don't 
believe me you can ask her father, or you can ask any- 
one as knows her as well as I do. I ain't sayin' it for 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 289 

any love of her nor for any love of you, for I ain't got 
no reason to like either of you. I'm sayin' it because 
it's God's truth, an' you can take it or leave it. Now 
I've done, Mr. King, an' I guess you can go and think 
it over." 

Her speech had left her breathless. She had 
roused from her indolence to a pitch that struck the 
young man before her with amazement, if not convic- 
tion. She had never dealt in caution, and it did not 
occur to her now, in her well-meaning determination, 
that her championship might be doing Fan more harm 
than good in his eyes. Her method resembled not 
remotely that of the elephant who sat down on the 
eggs. She looked at King's troubled face, and her 
own flushed a little, as it had not done for years, un- 
der its coating of powder. She hitched her wrapper 
closer about her, in the old familiar gesture, and the 
waft of sachet floated down to him from the porch- 
step. 

"I've told you the truth," she said again doggedly, 
"an' I want you to think it over, an' I want you to 
think it over good — an' I guess you'll find Fan out in 
the woods back of the barn I" 



XXV 

SHE was coming along the river-path toward the 
house, walking slowly, her head bent a little and 
her hands swinging free at her side. Picking his way 
across the remembered tangle of the garden, past the 
bam where implements lay rusting heedlessly among 
weeds and scattered boxes, and the old black horse 
lifted friendly eyes to him across the stable door, he 
had thought out what he meant to say, but now, at 
the sight of her, all planned speech was swept from 
his mind. He was smitten by the change in her. She 
looked tired, dreary; her dress was untidy and her 
hair unbrushed. It was as if all pride had gone 
from her. He stepped forward and held out his 
hands. 

"Fan, I want to speak to you — I " 

She stopped short, and her eyes met his blankly. 
At the look something rose in his throat and choked 
him. 

"Good afternoon, Mr. King. Did you ride over 
from the village? I thought " 

"Fan!" 

290 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 291 

"It's a little cooler, isn't it?" she went on. "I've 
just walked down to the river. There are quite a lot 
of sail-boats out. I suppose a good many visitors 
are staying on till the end of the month, now the 
weather's turned nice again." 

He set his teeth, blocking her way along the path. 

"Fan, are you going to listen to me?" 

A little quiver went through her, and he saw her 
hand clutch itself involuntarily in the fold of her skirt. 
She lifted her chin, smiling. 

"Certainly — ^if there's anything you want to say. 
Hadn't we better go back to the house, so you can sit 
down a while? I thought you were back in the city 
again by now." 

"I'm not; I'm going to-morrow. Fan, what's hap- 
pened to you?" 

"Why, I guess nothin's happened that I know of. 
Things don't happen in Jersey ; I think I told you that 
once before." 

Her gaze ran lightly over him as he stood before 
her. Three weeks ago she could not have met him 
like this; her nerve would have failed. She was won- 
dering how long it would be before it failed now at the 
look of his eyes, the touch of his hand. 

"Fan, is it any use pretending 1 You know what 
I have come to say." 



292 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"I beg your pardon I" 

"Look at me — ^you shall I" He caught her wrists 
that she tried to drag from him, and held them. '1 
want to take you out of this — ^to take you away. 
Don't you think I know how this life is killing you, 
what it's making of you? Now, in this little time, 
you are diflFerent. I hate to think of you living 
here, spending your life as you will spend it, as you 
can't help spending it. Fan, listen to me before it's 
too late. You am't a child, you must understand. I 
want to take you away from it all." 

All affectation had dropped frcnn him; he was 
speaking for perhaps the first time in his life wholly 
earnestly, and she recc^^sed the change and shrank 
from it. It was as though she were brought face to 
face suddenly with the real in him that had always 
eluded her, the self she had tried to reach and failed. 
If he had spoken like this a month ago. . . . She 
set her teeth and laughed. 

"My dear boy, don't be theatrical 1 It doesn't suit 
you. If " 

His grasp tightened on her wrists, and she was 
silent. 

"I'm not a rich man. Fan," he went on. "I'm not 
likely to be a successful one, but I can work — I can 
make things up to you. We are both of us young; 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 293 

we can start together. I don't want to force you to 
anything; I don't want to tie you down. You will be 
as free, if you marry me, as you were before. You 
shall be free to make the best of your life in your own 
way. What will you ever do here, if you stay? You 
know what your life has been, what it is likely to be. 
You have no claims. You have the right to choose 
for yourself. You know me, and . . . you care for 
me enough to trust me. I swear to God you shall 
never be sorry for it 1" 

Her hands went cold in his grasp. 

"Will you — let me go," she said faintly. 

He loosed them, and she stepped back. 

"Fan, you am't going to refuse ?" 

'The autumn world seemed to close and quiver about 
her. She looked at his face, every line that she loved, 
and the longing of her own body fought against her. 
Three weeks ago, if he had looked like this, spoken 
like this, all her life might have been different. Now 
it was too late; she had learnt the eternal paradox 
that only with love comes the strength to do without 
love, and the irony of it gripped her through the 
struggle of her will. It was not himself only that 
pleaded ; it was life and youth, all that she missed and 
wanted. For a moment she wavered; then her 
hand went out and touched the tree beside her, clinging 
to it. 



294 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"Marry you?" she mocked. "Do you think I'm go- 
ing to let you — any man — marry me out of pity ?" 

"Would any pity in the world give me the right to 
say this to you if I didn't love you? Fan, it's you 
yourself that I want — ^that I care for — ^and you know 
it. You can't say you don't. Fan, don't pretend to 
me; don't try to 1" 

"You say you love me," she said slowly. "If you 
did, would you believe what you did about me — ^what 
you do now?" 

"It doesn't matter. I believe nothing, but if I did 
all I could believe in the world wouldn't make any 
difference now — it couldn't come between us." 

"If it didn't make a difference to you, don't you 
think it would to me? You believed things once, 
against my own word, and you'd believe them again. 
How long would it be, if I married you, before you'd 
begin to think this, to think that — remember, and 
weigh and count up? You couldn't help itl We 
are different, Willis. We don't see things the 
same, we don't judge them the same. You have said 
it yourself, and you know it. We belong to different 
worlds. We should never get on together — ^never! 
And besides," she went on recklessly, "I don't want 
to marry at all. Why should I? I don't want to 
settle down. I want to have a good time while 1 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 295 

can. You say this life is spoiling me — ^how do you 
know? How do you know I haven't grown to like 
it? How do you know I even want to give it up? 
I don't. It suits me. You came down here this 
summer, and I liked you, and you were fun, and 
we've had some . . . good times together. But 
there it ends. Good heavens, do you suppose I take 
everything seriously? I thought I cared for you till 
you began to get serious, and I care for you still, but 
I care for myself a lot more. You want to make 
me different from what I am. You never could, for 
one thing, and — ^if you could, I wouldn't want to be 1" 

"That isn't true, Fan." 

"Oh yes, it is," she laughed. "My dear boy, I 
know myself better than you know me. I know what 
I want, what I like. I'm happy the way I am. Oh, 
I've thought things over too, and I guess they — ^arn't 
so bad, in the long run. I've thought a lot since you 
went away, and I see the truth. Don't stand there 
looking so solemn I" 

His face whitened slowly. 

"Do you mean me to believe that you never 
cared?" 

"Yes, I cared. You were different to anyone I 
ever knew, and I liked you, and I liked to think you 
were ... in love with me. But I guess I . . . 
never took it quite so seriously as you did, that's all," 



296 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

%t was easier now that the first step was passed. 
She felt suddenly the measure of her own strength, 
and with it the fierce passion of self-wounding. She 
looked at him, straight and healthy and stm-tanned, 
and thought of the man who had come down here three 
months ago; the slight limp figure she had carried 
in her arms through rain and storm to the house- 
shelter. She saw all that the summer had done 
for him; all that it had done for them both. It was 
she who had brought him back to health, made of 
him the man who stood before her now; taught him 
the physical joy of living, the strength of the woods. 
She felt a savage gladness in that he owed it to 
her ; to her and to no one else. He would go back to 
his work now sane and whole, with a few things 
learnt, a few forgotten; and she had done it for him. 
And for her ... he had opened the gate to her 
heritage and led her through. She had passed the 
boundary and found her Kingdom, and she had only 
herself to thank that it was a sorry one. Hence- 
forth their ways would part, but he had done this for 
her, and nothing could undo it. On both sides the 
summer's debt stood level. 

"Fan," he said gravely, "I want you to think this 
over. Think what it means to both of as ! You sent 
me away once. If you send me now it will be for the 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 297 

last time. As for your not caring for me, I won't 
believe it. Dear, before it is too late, think. Give 
what is best in you the chance! This isn't the 
life for you. You must know it." He paused a 
second, looking at her very steadily. "I am asking 
you. Fan, for the last time. Have you thought what 
you are saying, what you are doing for us both if you 
refuse?" 

He knew even as he said it that he could not reach 
her. She was beyond him, set apart by some change 
that he dimly realised. This was not the girl he talked 
and laughed with on the road to Monterey; the girl 
he had kissed under the shadow of the same trees 
that watched them now. In some subtle way she 
had altered, changed, passed the mystic line that di- 
vides the child from the woman. The very poise 
of her body was diflferent. The little carelessnesses of 
dress, the untidy blouse, the sagging skirt-band, that 
had smote him at first sight with a sense of hurt at 
her deterioration, strengthened now rather than marred 
a dignity that was new to him. With her person- 
ality dominating him as it had never done before 
there came to him, in a glimpse of naked self-know- 
ledge, the real sense of the gulf that was between them. 
The summer's glamour fell from him. It was not 
only that he saw her differently; he saw himself 



298 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

differently. He was nearer to caring for her in that 
instant than he had even been, but stronger than his 
feeling for her rose the mistrust of himself, the dread 
of the future's reckoning. It was as though this 
moment, fleeting, transitory, foreshadowed for him 
the real test of the years to come, the test there would 
be no evading. His spasm of genuineness was nearly 
spent, and he saw by its failing flash how far it had 
carried him. Already his artificial self was wavering, 
reassertive. If, on its impulse of retreat, he could 
have recalled his words just spoken, he would have 
done so, but there was no need. She leaned her wrist 
against the tree, in the gesture he remembered, and her 
cheek against it, and met his gaze with old, hardened 
eyes. 

"I guess you've had my answer." 

"And you mean it?" 

It wouldn't be too late now; her fingers tightened 
on the rough bark. 

"I— mean it. Yes." 

The real moment had passed; he was back on the 
old level. He stood looking at her a moment longer, 
out of the strange hazel eyes that were to her like 
the eyes of no other man in the world ; the eyes of the 
only man the world had ever held for her. Then 
he held out his hand simply. It was the gesture of 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 299 

the ultimate coward. But her love spared her that 
knowledge of him. 

"Good-bye," he said. 

The commonplace was so exactly like him. It put 
the final seal of a bitter humour on all she would have 
to remember him by. Her fingers were cold and 
nerveless. 

"Good-bye," she said stonily. 

He turned, and she watched him go till the last grey 
blur of his coat was lost between the greyer pine- 
trunks, her figure tense and rigid as the tree against 
which she leaned. There seemed something of its 
dogged strength in her, something of its straightness. 
For a little while the even, steady crunch of his step 
on the pine-needles was audible, growing gradually 
fainter; then it ceased altogether. She threw her- 
self face downward on the brown sodden ground, and 
her teeth closed on her wrist. 



There were voices in the bar when at last she drew 
near the house. A door creaked, and she heard her 
father say : 

"Wickedness 1 I reckon there ain't much wicked- 
ness your precious hussy wem't on to before she was 
three foot high I You can't come round me with that 



300 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

racket I spotted the sort Pbemy was Vmg enoogli 
ago, and so did everyone else in the town tfaafs got 
their eyes open« You've only got yourself to Aank 
that you didn't take'n tfirash her a year ago when it 
might have done some good And about my dat^ter 
. . . ni ask you to just get out and shut the door 
after you, and if you lay your tongue to my daugh- 
ter's name in Matehocken, by God youTl be sorry for 
itr 

Tasker was lounging by the end of the bar, one 
1^ slung across it, his hat on his head and a cigar 
between his teeth. His moutfi was drawn into a de- 
risive curve, the ugly lift one sees sometimes in the 
mouth of a dog. The smile faded when he caught 
sight of Fan in the doorway. His face hardened and 
his blue eyes darkened to steel colour. 

"Oh, it's you," he said. He shifted the cigar leis- 
urely. "It's a pity you didn't come in sooner an' hear 
sutlyn' interesting about yourself. Come here. Stand 
there. I want to look at you." 

She obeyed mechanically. 

"John " said Mrs. Sales faintly. She half- 
crossed the room to range herself by the girl's side. 

"You shut upl" said Tasker. "I'm dealing with 
this." And Mrs. Sales went helplessly back. "Now 
look here," he said, "I want the truth from you, and 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 301 

by God it had better be the truth! Were you at 
Monterey with King the night I spent in the city?" 

"Yes," said Fan steadily. Once her father's eyes 
had had power to daunt her. Now she had no longer 
any fear of him. She faced him, resolute. As she 
faced him the likeness between father and daughter 
had never shown so strongly. 

"One o'clock at night, and you stopped at Ford's 
place for drinks . . . you, my daughter ... I 
You stand there and tell me what I wouldn't have be- 
lieved from anyone but you? If I'd known this I'd 
have thrashed you within an inch of your life I You, 
after the way I've brought you up, stand and tell me 
thatl" 

If there was humour in the situation, Tasker was 
the last man to see it. He was absolutely sincere in 
his anger. Fan, meeting his eyes unflinchingly, won- 
dered dully whether her father really thought that 
anything mattered to her now, anything he might say, 
anything he might do. She wondered, in an imper- 
sonal, remote way, whether he was going to strike 
her. She wouldn't have cared if he had. Nothing 
mattered now. It was all very funny . . . she 
wanted to laugh. She found herself noticing the cu- 
rious way her father's teeth met on the cigar, the fa- 
miliar droop of his grizzled yellow moustache. 



308 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

"Yes." 

He sfipped to Us feet, towering above her. Mrs. 
Sales gave a frightened cry. 

"Do yoa know that I'd have turned yon out of the 

house, yon and that along with yon? If I catch 

him round here again 111 break every bone in his 
danmed body, and if I hear of you speaking to 



The colour came back to Fail's face in a rush. 
It was as though something had roused her suddenly 
from her apathy, brought her back with a shock to 
everyday consciousness. She straightened herself, 
and for the moment her look cowed even Tasker's 
anger. 

"I guess it'l^ ... all right, father," she said 
quietly. "You needn't worry about that. I . . . 
shan't see him again . . ." 

Her voice quivered and broke. She put out her 
hand gropingly for the door-handle and turned and 
went. They could hear her going up the staircase 
slowly, one step at a time, till she reached the top. 
Tasker looked at Mrs. Sales, and his gaze was almost 
shamefaced. 

"The hell r he said. 



XXV 

WINTER came early that year. The week 
after Thanksgiving dull, grey clouds began 
to gather and bank along the horizon, and there was 
in the air the unmistakable presage of snow. It came 
one noon, a skirmish of fine driven flakes, and by 
nightfall the woods were wrapped in a white silence. 
The wheels of passing waggons sounded muffled and 
remote. 

Mrs. Lyons stood at her back door, looking out. 
Beyond the shadowless stretch of pasture plot the 
pines made a line of solid blackness, and above them 
the sky was of a clear frosty blue, set with quivering 
stars. Lights from the village showed here and there 
through intervening trees; it was hard to tell which 
stars were of earth and which of heaven. The little 
frail woman, standing framed in the lighted doorway, 
saw God in both. The air was keen, and she held 
her hands wrapped in the shawl that was about her 
shoulders, gazing out with eyes for which the mystery 

303 



304 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

of nature had never lost its wonder. A middle-aged 
woman now, broken in health and worn with toil, she 
faced the stars which to her were God's revelation with 
the same simple trust and speculation with which she 
had regarded them as a child. To her they were as 
near and real and kindly as the nestled yellow lights 
of the village where she had always lived. Love had 
a great part in her religion, and the love which 
makes small things great makes the great things also 
finite. 

She had been out to get in wood for the morning's 
fire, carrying the split logs one at a time from the 
wood-pile and stacking them by the side of the kitchen 
stove to get dry. As she lingered now a moment 
before turning indoors her eyes were drawn by a figure 
moving diagonally across the white empty lot. It 
reached the gate, turning in, and came noiselessly up 
the snow-covered path. Mrs. Lyons stepped aside, 
and the light from the doorway shone past her. 

"Why, Fan, is that you?" 

"It's me. I saw your light. I thought you'd be up 
still. Say, isn't it cold? There's going to be a real 
hard frost to-night." 

"The stars look like it. I was just thinkin'. Come 
on in. Fan. I'm real glad you came over." 

Fan stamped the melting snow from her shoes, and 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 30S 

followed her into the kitchen. The small room looked 
homely and welcoming in the lamplight. Mrs. Lyons* 
rocking-chair was pulled up close to the table, where 
a sewing-basket stood with some unfinished needle- 
work on the red-patterned cloth. 

"Come over to the stove an* get warm. It's awful 
cold. You'd ought to have something more on you, 
comin' out this way." 

"Oh, I'm warm enough!" She loosened her jacket 
and sat down. Her face was flushed healthily with 
exercise and the crisp air. "I've been over as far as 
the Upper Bridge ; I wanted the walk. The woods are 
lovely to-night. How's Tom ?" 

"About the same, I guess. He's gettin' better 
nights now. He's been better since he's had Doctor 
Connolly. I was just goin' to take his medicine up 
in a minute. It ain't ten yet." 

She glanced at the small nickel clock on the dresser, 
and took up her sewing again. Fan sat with her chin 
on her hand, watching her across the table. Her 
face looked old in the lamplight. Something of its 
restlessness had gone, leaving settled lines that soft- 
ened rather than hardened; records of a lesson learned, 
a knowledge gained. The straight, firm mouth and 
boyish chin were the same ; the grey eyes, a little graver 
now, were eyes that had learned to look on life clearly 
X 



3o6 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

and kindly, without judgment or condemnatioa. Only 
something of the old waywardness was in them still 
when she smiled. 

She put out her hand and touched one of the spools 
of cotton lying near her. 

"What are you making?" 

"It's just somethin' I was doin' for Phemy. You 
heard about her, didn't you?" 

"About Willie Pearce. Yes, Phemy told me her- 
self. I saw her the other day. I was so glad." She 
pushed the spool back again. "I know Phem^s a 
good girl, really, and she'll make Willie a good wife. 
It'll mean everything to her. She always did care 
for him, ever since they were at school. When are 
they going, do you know ?" 

"Tuesday week, Mrs. Martin told me. "Willie's 
got a good post at Orange; he'll be startin' at 
eleven dollars an' he'll work up. I guess Mrs. 
Pearce don't like it very much, but Willie's over age 
now, an' it isn't as if he was the only boy she'd got. 
I was real glad about it I always liked Willie. 
Tom knows a man there he's goin* to give him a lettef 
to." 

Fan watched the soft fabric shaping under Mrs. 
Lyons' fingers. 

"I always felt it so much," she said slowly, "that 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 307 

Mrs. Martin blamed me the way she did. Because 
I've always been fond of Phemy, and IVe known h6r 
since we were both little, and I felt it . . . more 
than if it was myself. Maybe it' was natural for her to, 
but it hurt me more than an)rthing else, I think." 

"I know it did. I know just how you felt. But 
she's gettin' over it. An' you can't always go by 
what folks say when they're worried, Fan. They 
just think what comes into their head first, whether it's 
so or not." 

"I know it did. I know just how you felt. But 
tell you. Don't laugh." Her own mouth curved a 
little involuntarily. "Mrs. Sales and father got 
married." 

The sewing dropped from Mrs. Lyons' hands. 

"Is that so!" 

"They were married yesterday over at Asbury. I 
knew the/d driven over in the morning, but I didn't 
know what for. Mrs. Sales told me while father was 
out putting the horse away. I had to laugh ; she was 
so funny about it. I think she . . . didn't know 
just how I'd take it. She was afraid I'd mind." She 
paused, smiling across her locked hands at the work 
Mrs. Lyons had resumed. "I don't know why she 
should. I was glad. She said she meant to make 
a different man of him, and she will. Poor old Dad. 



308 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

... Do you know I've felt sorry for Mrs. Sales 
lately," she went on. "I never used to, but I do. I 
guess things am't always people's own faults. She's 
told me a little about herself, and I think she'd had a 
pretty hard time, and I guess she's . . . felt things 
in a way. I know she has. She hasn't had other 
people's chances always." 

Mrs. Lyons bit off a length of cotton. 

'Tolks make their own chances." 

''Not always. She told me yesterday she'd always 
wanted to marry and settle down and be — ^like other 
people. It sounded funny, but I do understand. 
She's been so different to me lately; I don't know 
why. She doesn't like me any better, but she'd tried 
to be . . . nice somehow. It's funny, because 
I've always done my best to be mean to her." She 
looked up at Mrs. Lyons' face. "She said it 
shouldn't make any difference to me, her marrying 
father, and — ^she's going to make him give me a 
saddle-horse 1" The smile flickered out again. "It 
was so like her to say that. But she has been nice 
to me. And she tried to ... do something for 
me, once. I didn't know at the time, and I guess it 
did more harm than good, but she meant it all right. 
She thought she was helping me. I shan't forget 
it'' 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 309 

Mrs. Lyons looked up in her gentle, questioning 
way. 

"Was it— anything " 

Fan nodded quickly, biting her lip as she stared at 
the lamp. 

"Yes. She thought she could help me. It wasn't 
her fault, and maybe it was . . . just as well anyway. 
Only . . ." 

"Fan, I'm awful sorry for you !" 

"You needn't be. I guess it was my own fault, most 
oi it" She seemed to be gazing down the long road 
of the summer's folly. "I didn't know then, but it 
couldn't ever have been . . . different." 

The older woman looked at her young grave face 
wonderingly. 

"Fan, maybe I oughtn't to ask. But ... did he 
ever want you to marry him?" 

"Yes." 

"And you didn't?" 

"I couldn't. It wasn't anything to do with him. It 
was just— everything. It wasn't possible. Sometimes 
I'm . . . just as glad." 

"You care for him still, dear?" said Mrs. Lyons, af- 
ter a moment. 

"Yes, I guess I always will, but . • . it's dif- 
ferent. It was only him I cared for once, but 



310 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

now if 8 made me . . • care for other things as 
welL I guess I . • • see things better. I don't 
know." 

The little clock had ticked past the hour. 

"Haven't you got to take Tom's medicine up?" said 
Fan. 

"I'm just goin* to get it." She rose, laying down 
her work, looked at the girl's head with the lamplight 
on it. 

"Will you stay on at home, Fan?" 

"No, that's what I came to tell you. I always leave 
everything to the last, don't I? I got a letter from 
Will to-day." 

"Your brother? Oh, Fan, I'm glad!" 

"Isn't it good? He wrote before, but the letter 
never got here. He's got a place just outside 
Galveston, and he wants me to go out there to hini. 
His wife wrote too; she wrote me an awfully nice 
letter. I've never seen her, but she must be nice. 
They want me to go as soon as I can get ready- — before 
Christmas." 

"An' you will? I'm awful glad for you. Fan. I'll 
hate to lose you, but I'm awful glad." 

"He's going to send the fare out, but father wants 
to pay that, so I'm to use the money to get clothes with. 
Will says he knows I'll like it there. It's just what 



THE PRICE OF YOUTH 311 

I've always wanted. Fll bring his letter over to- 
morrow." 

"You'll have lots to get ready.'' 

''Mrs. Hewitt's going to help me. I guess I'll want 
cver)rthing nearly !" 
. "Well, I'm real glad, Fan." 

She put her hand on the girl's shoulder before she 
turned away, picking up a spoon and wineglass from 
the dresser to take upstairs. 

"Don't you go till I come down, Fan. I want to 
tell Tom." 

"All right." 

The little clock ticked on in its cheery monotone. 
A cinder dropped in the grate, and the sound made 
a friendly companionship in this room that was more 
homelike to her than her own home. Overhead she 
could hear Mrs. Lyons' soft, regular footfall as she 
moved across the bedroom floor. She reached for- 
ward and touched the little heap of needlework on 
the table, handling it with curious, tender fingers. 
Once it would have had no meaning to her. Now as 
she touched it she seemed to feel, to understand. It 
was not envy; it was merely the fleeting sense of some- 
thing she might have had once and had lost, but might 
some day have again. For a moment a little empty 



312 THE PRICE OF YOUTH 

mist came before her eyes, and she bit her lip to keep 
it back. 

She heard Mrs. Lyons' step descending on the 
stairs. 
"Tom says *" 

She laid the sewing back with a little swift gesture, 
smoothing its folds, and met her smiling. 



-*; ^* f'. y . 






THE LATE RETURNING 

BY 

MARGERY WILLIAMS 

Author of "The Price of Youth" 



Ootfi i2mo iias 



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— Milwaukee Sentinel. 

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